Decades of school funding debate fly right out the window
Tuesday, Jan 31, 2012
* For at least the last 30 years, Democrats and Republicans alike have pushed to change the way Illinois funds its schools. The idea was to rely less on property taxes and more on statewide taxes to help ease the local burden. Dawn Clark Netsch made the proposal a centerpiece of her 1994 campaign, and Gov. Jim Edgar successfully hammered her for it. Not long after, however, Edgar himself proposed just about the same plan.
One of the concepts behind this idea is that property taxes are not based on the ability to pay. So, it’s better to lessen that tax burden and shift it to a tax that is based on the ability to pay, like the income tax.
The feeling after the 2006 gubernatorial election, when the Democrats swept the state, was that Illinois was as close as it would ever be to achieving this goal. Gov. Rod Blagojevich had a different idea, however. Instead of a “property tax swap,” he proposed what turned out to be a catastrophically unpopular gross receipts tax. The momentum was lost and the issue began to fade away.
The Senate Democrats revived the idea a couple of years ago with their tax hike plan that would’ve provided some property tax relief. The bill passed the chamber, but went just about nowhere in the House.
* And now the state budget crisis has apparently taken the whole thing off the table and Illinois politicos are discussing throwing the car into reverse. Instead of talking about local tax relief, the big new idea is to pass the pain down the governmental food chain to the locals…
Sometimes, it’s amazing to me how fast things can change in politics.
I’m not sure this thing can pass, as I explained in my syndicated newspaper column this week. Downstate and suburban voters are not going to relish the prospect of paying higher local taxes, or watch as their schools are slashed even further.
There are also some who believe that House Speaker Michael Madigan is counting on vocal opposition to gain a bit of political advantage. His suburban and Downstate members can angrily vote “No” and then use the roll call in their campaigns this fall.
Either way, this issue needs to be debated in the proper context, and I think I’ve framed it the way it ought to be. Your thoughts?