There’s always been the sort of mentality in Lake County that The Region is the forgotten stepchild of the state of Indiana, always last to be considered for state funding. Last week, I discussed how a large majority of local casino tax revenue goes to the state over local governments. That got me thinking: is the old idea about Lake County true? Do we really get less from the state than we pay into it?
According to the numbers, it turns out we get more.
In a 2010 report by the nonprofit Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute, at the time of the last U.S. Census, Lake County paid a total of more than $890 million in taxes. That’s the second highest amount paid by a single county, behind Marion County. However, the same year, Lake County received over $1 billion in state expenditures. The shortfall between taxes and spending for the county amounted to $186 million, the largest in the state.
The Horseshoe Hammond and Ameristar in East Chicago bring in about $200 million a year in revenue for the state. If yearly taxes and state expenditures for Lake County are similar to the report, then it’s safe to say that the county’s shortfall would more than double if the two casinos were taken out of the equations.
It should be noted that only 22 of the state’s 92 were in the black in the report. Also, on a per capita basis, Lake County’s shortfall was on the smaller end because of its population size. So it's not like we're getting spoiled (though interestingly, Marion County, the leader in population, tax revenue and stat expenditures, was in the black).
The report also points out that certain expenditures are the responsibility of each county, and counties can enact their own taxes to fund local projects. For example, last year Lake County passed an extra income tax to help fund schools.
But going back to my initial question, no, Lake County is not the neglected corner of the state some might think it is.