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Dejua vu all over again

Monday, Mar 31, 2014

* The Chicago Tribune editorial page published an op-ed by Gov. Pat Quinn

Feb. 24, 1997: “Illinois’ schoolchildren — and taxpayers — deserve something better than the state’s arcane, inadequate and inequitable system of paying for public education. It’s a method that relies far too heavily on property taxes, overburdening homeowners and creating huge inequities between rich and poor districts.”

April 19, 1997: “The legislature needs to establish a minimum amount guaranteed for each child to provide an adequate education. It should finance that foundation level by raising the state income tax, and then offset some of that increase with property tax relief. … What’s more, a modest increase in the state’s income tax would not be unduly burdensome, particularly when coupled with a drop in property taxes.”

Those aren’t my words. They’re the words of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, praising then-Gov. Jim Edgar’s thoughtful, responsible plan to change the way Illinois schools are funded by raising the income tax and reducing the property tax burden.

How right they were!

In fact, that is exactly what I set out to do last week when I proposed maintaining the current income tax rate — among the lowest in the nation — to properly fund public schools, while reducing the property tax burden by providing every Illinois homeowner with a guaranteed $500 annual refund. […]

The Chicago Tribune was right in 1997: It’s time to tackle this “arcane, inadequate system” where homeowners are overburdened and children are shortchanged.

* But is this really property tax relief? To me, anyway, it looks a whole lot like what President George W. Bush did during the 2008 crash

Tax rebates created by the law were paid to individual U.S. taxpayers during 2008. Most taxpayers below the income limit received a rebate of at least $300 per person ($600 for married couples filing jointly). Eligible taxpayers received, along with their individual payment, $300 per dependent child under the age of 17. The payment was equal to the payer’s net income tax liability, but could not exceed $600 (for a single person) or $1200 (married couple filing jointly).

* The Tribune didn’t like the idea back then

As Americans hold their breath over the economy, Bush elbowed Congress to pass a $150 billion stimulus package, with rebate checks and temporary tax cuts. Democrats agreed, with swift passage in the House.

It’s money drawn from thin air, amid crushing deficits.

* Quinn’s proposal (which was pushed by Speaker Madigan) is to cut a $500 check to every Illinois homeowner and then mail those checks before the general election.

The proposal does nothing to address the reasons behind our high property taxes. The money could’ve been used for schools, perhaps with a requirement that school districts not increase their budgets in exchange for the cash. There are no ideas here to address unfunded state mandates, which push up costs. There are no ideas to force schools to rein in administrative costs, etc., etc., etc..

There is zero “reform” in this plan. It’s just a check, paid for with money we as a state really don’t have.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


16 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 31, 14 @ 10:52 am:

    No fair trying to hold the Trib to consistency.


  2. - Arizona Bob - Monday, Mar 31, 14 @ 10:59 am:

    My gosh, Rich and I agree! An historic occasion!

    It’s time we look at what was accomplished with Edgar’s increase using objective criteria such as NAEP scores (ISAT and PSAE are politically dumbed down tripe) and how many more contact hours between students and teachers it bought.

    It would also be of interest to see how teachers and administrators benefitted from the tax increase relative to the students.

    i already know the answer to this, as I suspect do most posters.

    the kids got shafted, the educrats (and the pols who got their campaign contributions) got a bonanza.

    Does anyone seriously think the kids will get more services and better quality education out of this?

    This is the subject of my next guest column.


  3. - OneMan - Monday, Mar 31, 14 @ 11:01 am:

    The problem is Governor for whatever reason and through no fault of your own. Most people in Illinois do not think that any sort of ’special tax’ or whatever we want to call it that is supposed to go to help education isn’t going result in down the road less general revenue dollars going into education.

    Also, keep the extra $140 I would get from this (or whatever amount it is) from this property tax plan, or better yet, send it my local school district. They freaking need it.


  4. - Raymond - Monday, Mar 31, 14 @ 11:13 am:

    === There is zero “reform” in this plan. ===

    Those words must send Brooke Anderson into a high-flying tizzy. She’s been all over Twitter this morning claiming just the opposite.


  5. - Susiejones - Monday, Mar 31, 14 @ 11:13 am:

    the public needs to speak up on this! the shell game continues with education; it is old news that plays well in the polls, apparently, but never actually results in more money for education and relief for taxpayers. empty promises, again. sick of it!


  6. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 31, 14 @ 11:28 am:

    ===Those words must send Brooke Anderson into a high-flying tizzy===

    She just called. lol


  7. - Irish - Monday, Mar 31, 14 @ 11:31 am:

    I believe the GA and the current and probably future Governor’s will never fully fund education. Nor will they ever establish a specific fund or revenue stream solely dedicated to fully fund schools.

    The reason? Because if they did they would not be able to use the “poor children” as reasons to raise future revenues. Every time they need a tax increase or fee increase for this or that they trot out the lack of funding for education. It is their “go to” excuse. Remember back to every major increase, or fee, or new revenue stream, and the main excuse to pass them was to fund the underfunded state educational system. Where would those programs/increases be if they couldn’t use funding education as a reason. What would they use instead?

    I believe we need to fully fund the educational part of state education from pre-school to university/college. But for the above reasons I don’t think it will ever happen.

    As an aside, I also believe that we need to get through the next generation of kids with our current education model. But then we are going to see a movement away from brick and mortar schools and towards home based electronic education. Where a single teacher could instruct many more children. The elimination of highly costly brick and mortar building with expensive operational and maintenance costs will drive this movement. The loss will be social interaction on the part of the students, and hands on instruction that is needed by some students. For kids where both parents work a low cost building with a minimally trained overseer would be all that is needed.


  8. - the Patriot - Monday, Mar 31, 14 @ 11:33 am:

    It is a classic bait and switch. Bait you with a temporary tax increase, then switch to permanent one making it seem like no new increase.

    Bait you into a permanent tax increase with a property tax rebate, then they will switch out and take it back in a few years. I support this only if every legislator or governor that signs on gets 40 lashes when they eliminate it. That would tell us how serious they are.

    By the way. We all know that how we fund schools does not work. What I am missing is the workable solution. Any other plan means an increase in sales/income tax and dropping property taxes. But that relies heavily on trusting the state government not to swap the money and do what they want with it. The reality is, until at least the top three people in this state or gone, no one really will trust Quinn, Madigan, or Cullerton enough to buy in to a big change.


  9. - Cabildero - Monday, Mar 31, 14 @ 11:44 am:

    If i remember correctly, didn’t the $250 rebate from 2000 that Ryan sent around to anyone who claimed the 5% credit on property taxes get hit with extra income taxes? As the state rebate was considered earned income.


  10. - muon - Monday, Mar 31, 14 @ 11:52 am:

    As I understand the proposal the $500 check is offset by the elimination of the property tax deduction in the Illinois income tax. People will see a $500 check this year, but next spring they would see their state tax go up quite a bit. A person paying $7500 in property taxes on a $250,000 house gets a $375 deduction, so they would only get a net $125 bump from the Quinn plan. It’s mostly just shifting part of state tax burden from less valuable to more valuable property.

    In this form it doesn’t provide any reform to the balance between local property taxes and state taxes used to fund education.


  11. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 31, 14 @ 12:09 pm:

    “It’s just a [bribe], paid for with money we as a state really don’t have.”

    Fixed that for you.


  12. - Sir Reel - Monday, Mar 31, 14 @ 12:19 pm:

    A school consolidation referendum was on my primary ballot. It didn’t pass. Illinois has almost 900 school districts. About the same as California I believe.

    As long as school districts want both local control and State funding it’s hard to control costs.

    This latest from Quinn is just more noise with little substance.


  13. - Walker - Monday, Mar 31, 14 @ 3:41 pm:

    Any time someone says “this is for Education” distrust them.

    It’s a shortcut used by both Parties, when they don’t believe you can handle the details.

    It’s always for a whole range of things that might need fixing.


  14. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Mar 31, 14 @ 7:31 pm:

    Quinn makes a good point:

    The Tribune seems to be all for a tax increase when it is being proposed by a Republican.

    Mitch Daniels, hero of the Tribune and Bruce Rauner, put Indiana’s financial house in order by increasing the state’s sales tax to provide property tax relief.

    Sales taxes being more regressive, Quinn’s plan makes more sense than Mitch Daniels.

    Quinn campaign is smart politically to tread in Edgar’s footsteps, but there are a lot of comparisons like this to be made to Mitch Daniels.


  15. - Tony - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 9:11 am:

    The proceeds from the State Lottery was originally set up to be spent on education in the State of Illinois. What happened??? Oh! let me think, corruption.


  16. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 9:27 am:

    Tony, a couple of times a year, Charlie Wheeler has to address your misinformed legend. He did so as recently as two weeks ago right here:

    –Historical point of information–

    In fact, the Illinois lottery was NOT established to provide funding for education. Instead, its purpose was as a revenue source to replace state dollars that were expected to subsidize Chicago area mass transit under a new Regional Transportation Authority.

    Moreover, during the House debate on the lottery proposal, several legislators stated they would vote against the measure because it did not earmark proceeds from the new lottery for the schools.

    Both the lottery bill and the RTA legislation passed in late 1973 and were signed into law by Gov. Dan Walker.

    On a personal note, I believe I’m particularly well-qualified to address the topic, because I covered the issue for the Chicago Sun-Times and was the author of the page 1 story that reported the passage of the lottery proposal.

    Charlie Wheeler–


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