* Press release…
At a speech today on the South Side of Chicago, Chris Kennedy, Democratic candidate for Governor unveiled his agenda for the state of Illinois, declaring that it is time for “radical change” in Illinois.
“We need change—not just incremental change, but radical change. That radical change must start with changing out the governor,” said Kennedy. “But changing the governor is not enough. If we are going to keep the promise of the American Dream and restore the potential of our state.”
Kennedy said that our state needs to go much further and change the way we fund schools, tax our citizens and restore confidence in our Government. Kennedy’s plan includes:
· Radically altering the regressive property tax system where the wealthy and insiders benefit and the poor and middle class pay more.
· Enacting a progressive tax to end the unfair way we have a single flat tax rate for all citizens, where the middle class and even the poor are taxed at the same rate as the wealthy.
· Passing comprehensive ethics reforms to restore faith in state government and politics, including a ban on property tax lawyers making contributions to local assessors or to the assessors’ political organizations or political parties; a ban on the revolving door that allows employees of the assessor’s office to go into private practice and lobby that same office; ban having family members act as lobbyists and agents before the assessor; and, end the practice of elected officials acting as property tax lawyers and, in effect, taking on a role that is adverse to the state’s interests.
“I contend that, for millions of families, the system is broken. Governor Rauner says he wants to freeze property taxes; I want to lower them. He wants to preserve the system; I want to abandon it,” Kennedy added. “The political establishment in Springfield will oppose me with everything they’ve got because they know I’m not afraid to tell the truth, to take on the status quo, and to change the system.”
“If we don’t stop politicians and parties from making money off the property tax system, they won’t ever let us change the system. If we don’t move away from property taxes, we won’t embrace a progressive income tax. If we don’t embrace a progressive income tax, we will never fund schools properly or restore community safety or rid our cities of the scourge of gun violence.
“If we don’t fund schools properly, we will never educate our kids to be economically self-sufficient. If the next generation is not self-sufficient, then we cannot restore the American Dream. If we don’t restore the American Dream, we put the very future of our state and of our country at risk,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy concluded with a call for accountability pledging that if he didn’t balance the budget in his first term he wouldn’t seek re-election.
“We need integrity in our institutions and we need accountability from our elected politicians. As a candidate, I can tell you that if I am successful in becoming our governor, and if I don’t balance the budget, I won’t run for re-election, nor should I. That’s a level of accountability and honesty that’s sorely missing in Springfield.” [Emphasis added.]
* It was, by far, the best speech I’ve ever heard Chris Kennedy deliver. Click here to watch it for yourself.
I’ve been arguing strenuously for weeks that Kennedy needs to forcefully take up the property tax issue. It is at the very heart of why so many people believe this state is messed up. The taxes are too high and aren’t based on the ability to pay, so they hurt the poor and working class the most; the assessment system is rigged to favor the rich and politically powerful; and the taxes pervert the school funding system by funding much better public schools for the upper classes while poor districts struggle just to get by.
Not to mention that the issue comes handily gift-wrapped with a Speaker Madigan bow. And while Gov. Rauner’s poll numbers are lousy, Madigan’s are much worse. So that bit about preventing elected officials from doing property tax law is pretty big stuff.
* Kennedy also had a heck of an attack on JB Pritzker…
“Our ability to legitimize government as an agent of change is being crippled because so many people see the system as evidence of political insider abuse - where a billionaire can have a million-dollar mansion reclassified as dilapidated on the most expensive block, on the most expensive street, in the most expensive neighborhood in one of the most expensive cities in the world and all he needed was the right lawyers to avoid paying his fair share.”
* Greg Hinz…
Kennedy would make it illegal for state lawmakers or other elected officials to work as property tax lawyers, and to prevent local property-tax assessors from collecting campaign donations from property-tax lawyers or allowing their former staffers to practice before them as paid lobbyists.
The proposal seems aimed directly at Illinois House Speaker and state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Madigan, who is a property-tax lawyer, and Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios, who chairs the Cook County Democratic Party and has accepted millions of dollars from property-tax lawyers. While officially neutral, both are actively trying to help Pritzker, the Kennedy camp believes and some insiders confirm. Even without their help, Pritzker’s personal wealth and heavy spending has helped give him early momentum in the Democratic race. […]
One bit of truth, as Kennedy sees it, are signs that Berrios’ office assesses properties in minority areas at higher rates than in white areas, putting a heavier burden on minority taxpayers. I’ve seen some of Kennedy’s research on the subject and I’d call it interesting, though preliminary.
* The two things missing from the speech were any mention of how he hoped to rid the state of the property tax system and what that could mean for schools and local governments. He did mention some incremental steps like using existing studies and “acquisition-based assessments.”
But, if you judge this speech based on defining a huge problem, Kennedy did very well.
Not to mention the numerous Kennedyesque lines like this one…
“Everyone, everywhere should be able to wake up on a hot, sunny summer day and look forward to it, rather than see that gift of nature instead as a dark omen of the violent night to come.”
* Senate approves property tax freeze: Illinois senators Tuesday approved a two-year property tax freeze that applies to school districts and local governments. The Senate approved the freeze for school districts on a 37-11 vote with nine lawmakers voting “present.” The bill that freezes taxes for other units of local government was approved on a 38-11 vote, again with nine senators voting “present.”