The Indiana General Assembly opened up a can of worms when it voted this spring to allow cities and counties more leeway in how they choose to distribute economic development income tax revenue.

The impact of that decision is now weighing heavily on economic development advocates across the state, including the board of the Kokomo-Howard County Development Corp.

The KHDC is facing the possibility of a $20,000 cut in county funding, thanks to recommendations made this week by the Howard County Commissioners. In making their recommendation, the commissioners didn't hesitate to cite their newfound freedom from the legislature's prior constraints on EDIT funding.

In addition to the $20,000 proposed cut in KHDC funding, the commissioners are also recommeding cuts of $5,000 to the Small Business Development Corp., $4,500 to the Kokomo-Howard County Chamber of Commerce and $7,500 to the Kokomo Downtown Association.

Commissioner Brad Bagwell said the county might use the savings to offer pay increases for county employees.

We'll have to wait and see on that suggestion, but it doesn't seem likely the $17,000 the county would save from the recommendations would be enough to provide much of an increase to hundreds of county employees.

And we also have to question why the commissioners want to give $20,000 to Project Access, a local volunteer effort which provides medical care to the uninsured.

The county has never funded Project Access, and as worthy as the effort's goals seem, we can't see how the commissioners can fund an additional agency when they've already claimed they can't afford to maintain current funding levels for the economic development agencies.

We're sure these recommendations will receive a full measure of debate before the commissioners make a final decision, but we'd encourage them to view economic development as an investment, not as an expense.

The money may not bear fruit immediately, but without a concerted effort, Kokomo won't be able to keep the jobs it has, let alone add new ones.

No one is asking the county to spend money it doesn't have, but we are asking the commissioners to do the job they were elected to perform and to make responsible funding decisions. Right now, their funding recommendations don't seem to make much sense.

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