Lake County has committed $5.5M per year to the Regional Development Authority. Now some question the return on that investment.
May 19, 2016-At a meeting of the Lake County Commissioners yesterday, Republican Candidate for 3rd District Commissioner Mark Leyva questioned why Lake County would commit an additional $2M per year to the Regional Development Authority while considering imposing a wheel tax on residents. Leyva stated “I dont think we should be giving $2M [of county income tax] to the RDA if we are considering a wheel tax.” Commissioner Mike Repay, Leyva’s opponent in the upcoming election, quickly seized on the question. While not addressing the issue as to whether or not Commissioners are considering a wheel tax, Repay responded “Its time to talk about the existence of the RDA.” In addition to $5.5M per year committed by Lake County, the RDA is funded by $3.5M each from Gary, Hammond and East Chicago in Lake County and $3.5M from Porter County.
The RDA has been an abysmal waste of money by any objective measure. The regional agency promised economic development, jobs and possibly even property tax relief when founders were pressing for approval. In the first ten years they have been responsible primarily for the renovation of some parks as well as construction of an unused runway at the Gary/Chicago Airport. Despite that, the charter of the Regional Development Authority was recently renewed by the Indiana Legislature after the initial ten year period expired. In 2009, Porter County officials previously sued to get out of the RDA but were denied by the Court. Lets hope that Lake County takes a close look at ending this financial drain.