Letter to the Editor:
In these poor economic times, shouldn't the region focus on job creation? Shouldn't economic stimulus organizations be advocating projects that put our citizens back to work in order to create a healthier economy? Why, when so many residents need work is the Regional Bus Authority advocating a tax to prop up something that has the worst economic return for the investment (based on the Regional Development Authority's report) and 95% of Lake County residents don't use? Aren't we fed up with bailouts?
A tax, like the food and beverage tax, taken from the hospitality industry, to fund buses, will be detrimental to future tourism projects. The basic foundation of the hospitality industry, or any other industry, is to "carry its own weight." Any tax on the hospitality industry should be reinvested back into tourism related projects. The food and beverage tax has been implemented as the finance tool by every major city in Indiana for one purpose: building tourism attractions. Tourism related projects, like the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne and Evansville's Convention Center are funded by hospitality related taxes and have provided tens of thousands of Hoosiers with jobs.
The selection of the food and beverage tax by the RBA and RDA is one of political convenience. Recently, a Regional Development Authority (the agency that would dedicate the food and beverage tax to the RBA) member stated the food and beverage tax should be used because, "it is available and convenient." Creators of the RDA didn't expect this esteemed body to make decisions based on "availability and convenience."
When the RBA concludes their (2nd) study for a bus system and comes to a consensus on "why" it should be funded, logical public policy would link transit funding to automobiles or a wheel or gas tax. Unlike transit, the hospitality industry has no other option to fund future tourism projects. If transit is such good economic development why aren't the RDA, RBA or the Lake County Council advocating a County Option Income Tax (COIT), County Adjusted Gross Income Tax (CAGIT), County Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT), Local Option Income Tax (LOIT) or any one of the other tools more appropriately available and directly applicable?
It is the RDA and the RBA who have selected the wrong time, the wrong project and the wrong tax.
Speros A. Batistatos, FCDME
South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority