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Kennedy assails property tax system, attacks Pritzker and Berrios

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

* 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.”

* Related…

* 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.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

42 Comments
  1. - DuPage Saint - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 2:50 pm:

    I thought Kennedy was going to be the Democrat’s best hope. Maybe I am too old but I thought name alone would be great advantage in the red counties of southern Illinois but his roll out seemed pathetic. Maybe he was just getting his sea legs. It is a long time to the election. But still another rich guy that wants radical change I guess turn around agenda was taken.
    Please somebody with a plan hope and vision to get us out of the mess Illinois is in


  2. - The Captain - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 2:54 pm:

    If he was running for Cook County Assessor he’d have my vote, which frankly isn’t a bad idea.


  3. - Former Merit Comp - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 2:56 pm:

    Very impressive, which are words I haven’t uttered for a candidate for years. I was riding the fence between two candidates but this certainly has me leaning…….


  4. - Shytown - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:02 pm:

    It looks like CK forgot to mention that he too benefitted from property tax breaks, but that’s besides the point.

    This speech today was more politics than policy. I mean, is this seriously his agenda to fix Illinois? Sure, let’s create a law that forbids electeds from serving as property tax attorneys…but is that going to solve some or all of the state’s systemic fiscal challenges? Um, no. Not even close. And a progressive income tax? Great! Welcome to the club and all the other Dem gov candidates who’ve already embraced it. Dems (and some Repubs) have also been fighting for years to change the way we fund public schools. Again, join the club.

    There’s just nothing “radical” about this agenda unless you count CK as delivering a decent speech as radical.


  5. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:03 pm:

    Was there more to the agenda than a progressive income tax, Netsch-like tax swap and some ethics reforms?


  6. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:04 pm:

    2010 Forrest Claypool called. He wants his speech back.


  7. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:05 pm:

    “Kennedyesque lines” means lines written by others. John and Bobby put life and authenticity to those lines for certain


  8. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:07 pm:

    ===It looks like CK forgot to mention that he too benefitted from property tax breaks===

    Yeah, but he didn’t disconnect all the toilets at the Mart to get ‘em. Just sayin…


  9. - blue dog dem - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:10 pm:

    Nice. He’s half way there. Come out supporting gun issues and he will get 4 out of 5 union households.


  10. - Lucky Pierre - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:12 pm:

    I am astonished it has taken this long for a Democrat to criticize the Speaker and the obvious conflict of interest of his legislative duties and his lucrative property tax appeal business.

    This was pretty low hanging fruit but only one Democrat is taking a bite.


  11. - Workin' - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:12 pm:

    “Come out supporting gun issues” - from RFK’s son? Hardly.


  12. - walker - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:13 pm:

    Kennedy is coming into his rhetorical stride. His speeches are inspiring, for those few who hear them. Too bad televised debates are so last century.


  13. - wordslinger - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:14 pm:

    –Come out supporting gun issues and he will get 4 out of 5 union households.–

    Is that a real knee-slapper to you?

    Class shows.


  14. - Downstate Dem - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:15 pm:

    Powerful, persuasive speech that will resonate with average voters who are sick of the rigged system for insiders. Great day for Team Kennedy.


  15. - Texas Red - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:20 pm:

    Great job defining the problem - as for a solution not so much


  16. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:21 pm:

    ===Powerful, persuasive speech that will resonate with average voters who are sick of the rigged system for insiders. Great day for Team Kennedy.===

    “Meanwhile”, daily, almost “hourly” (snark), Pritzker is on the air chipping away at the 44% name recognition lead Kennedy has, and Pritzker was “there”, having Dem legislators’ back, symbolically, with robocalls to let elected Dems know “I’ll have your back”

    We’ll see…


  17. - Sure, Bert - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:22 pm:

    Only a billionaire can win…Radical change… Is it just me or are Pritzker and Kennedy starting to seem like Democratic versions of Rauner?


  18. - jim - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:23 pm:

    So how does he get Madigan to pass all his propert tax reforms.
    They’ll be the first thing he drops if he’s elected.


  19. - Precinct Captain - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:31 pm:

    There’s only a select group of truly policy-minded voters. The best way to connect is to reach people on an emotional level because voters use that connection as a heuristic for policy. Kennedy did a good job boiling down a complicated issue into nuggets voters can digest.


  20. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:39 pm:

    Anonymous at 3:05, he got huge applause for those sorts of lines, and I think he delivered them authentically.


  21. - Michael Westen - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:42 pm:

    He should be running for Assessor.


  22. - Will Caskey - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:43 pm:

    “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.”

    I have actually done research on this and it is total nonsense. I daresay Claypool’s former 2010 campaign would agree with me. There are many perfectly plausible criticisms of assessment in Cook County. That is not one of them.


  23. - lake county democrat - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:53 pm:

    If Pritzker was smart, he’d endorse this idea even if he’s secretly chcuckling with Madigan how it will never become law if he’s elected. Every year the Tribune runs stories reeking of unfair assessments by Barrios involving some campaign contributor - the tv and radio ads could write themselves. Pritzker shouldn’t want any part of that.

    Of course, the danger is still there that Kennedy and Pritzker demolish each other and some unelectable 3rd candidate sneaks in.


  24. - Will Caskey - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 4:00 pm:

    Wearing my consultant hat for a minute, the Berrios obsession means he’s giving up on the city vote and banking on suburban Cook, which I guess is a plan, if you ignore Biss in the north, that the south and southwest has long treated “wharrgarbl Berrios” as “I am an obnoxious racist white dude” and that the remaining west-northwest is…not a huge wealth of votes.

    Biss learned the hard way in 2016 that the path to the Dem nomination runs through Chicago. No statewide Dem has broken that rule since Blagojevich cemented it in 2002.

    Kennedy trying otherwise is more of a vanity campaign than a real one.


  25. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 4:07 pm:

    I’m in agreement in principle with - Will Caskey -

    The message and speeches and trying to be his own person, and… ugh…

    Who is the Kennedy Base and where will that constituency grow from inside or outside traditional Democratic circles.

    I can point to where Pritzker, Biss, Pawar, where each of these campaigns see where a path leads, where a base exists, and how to grow beyond it to win.

    Kennedy has a puzzling campaign.

    Kennedy leads, according the last “public” poll seen, with a 44% name ID lead, and a good faith feeling from voters.

    Ok.

    Where is the structural building? How will that be overtly seen as to also so strength in candidacy?


  26. - wordslinger - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 4:10 pm:

    –Biss learned the hard way in 2016 that the path to the Dem nomination runs through Chicago. No statewide Dem has broken that rule since Blagojevich cemented it in 2002.–

    Blago finished third in Chicago in 2002. He won the nomination Downstate.

    2002 Dem. guv. primary, Chicago-only vote:

    Burris: 202,252, 42.1%
    Vallas, 141,606, 29.4%
    Blago, 137,093, 29%

    Total vote statewide:

    Blago, 457,197, 36.5%
    Vallas, 431,728, 34.5%
    Burris, 363,591, 29.0%


  27. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 4:11 pm:

    Hilarious is:
    Is this is what Rauner has been saying for 2 years.
    Kennedy’s a copy cat


  28. - Chicago 20 - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 4:12 pm:

    Chris Kennedy is correct.

    The only way to fix Illinois finances is to change our constitution and allow a progressive income tax.

    The middle class has been burdened by the regressive tax policies of the past and by corporations not paying their fair shares.

    The State should be funding the majority of the education costs and with the additional tax revenues from a progressive income tax will allow for the State to fulfill its obligations and allow for reductions in property taxes.

    Raising the minimum wage to a living wage while cutting the middle class tax burden is a proven way to grow the economy for the benefit of everyone.


  29. - TopHatMonocle - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 4:12 pm:

    If the party was lining up behind Kennedy, as he probably imagined they would be before Pritzker showed up, would he be using this angle? I doubt it. Strikes me as almost tantrum-like, now that Madigan and Berrios aren’t supporting him he’s going to take their ball and go home. If this was poker, I’d say he’s on tilt. But he’s right though.


  30. - Fax Machine - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 4:13 pm:

    Berrios is running for reelection, so if he gets an opponent his name will be dragged through the mud on Chicago TV. Not a bad strategy to stake out Berrios = Pritzker


  31. - Southwest Burbs - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 4:18 pm:

    Just to be forthright and up front about it, I’m a kennedy supporter. I was there today, my first campaign event in my life that I’ve ever attended (32 years old today). And Chris absolutely brought the Kennedy today. I also agree with Rich, I went today expecting some sort of policy initiative and did not receive that. Great speech, and he totally laid out reform ideas and problems, but I was waiting for a policy on property tax/ education funding reform and came away empty. I’ll also say from just observing the room before the speech, and what I’ve read in the past, this doesn’t seem like a well oiled campaign operation! If he had Pritzker’s staff and organization he would be running away with the nomination. But Chris definitely has the charisma I was very impressed by that. And for anyone interested, a Bill Daley sighting in the back of the room.


  32. - Wizard of Ozzie - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 4:32 pm:

    Voters want to be inspired right now. Democrats should only use one measure as their metric. How does a candidate connect with, and inspire, people. JB can’t do that. Biss can’t do that.


  33. - Wizard of Ozzie - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 4:41 pm:

    Will, Joe Berrios influences the vote in Chicago and Kennedy is giving it up by attacking him? Will Guzzardi may disagree.


  34. - McMansionTrevor - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 4:43 pm:

    Kennedy is giving Chicago and the race to Pritzker. This is all about which Dem takes on JB. Chris is out by September or October. Biss has a lot more money than Pawar and can likely outraise by multiples. As a Northsider, even before this race, all white liberals talk about when City politics come up is everyone dreams of a Pawar mayoral campaign. Biss has his hardcore north shore liberals and their money and Pawar has his seven ward fan club and constant reminder he’s a minority. In a primary that needs Chicago, Biss is a man without a lane.


  35. - Arsenal - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 5:22 pm:

    ==If Pritzker was smart, he’d endorse this idea==

    Not sure what “the idea” is, but Pritzker absolutely should agree to property tax reform.

    I think this got Kennedy the headlines he wanted for today, but he needs to sustain it. Without follow up, it’ll be a one-day story, especially since by tomorrow all the headlines are likely to be “Sine die, still no budget.”


  36. - Former Merit Comp - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 8:29 pm:

    Wordslinger straight up


  37. - Chicago Cynic - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 8:56 pm:

    Sorry OW but Word is right and it was precisely the strategy of the Rod campaign to saturate downstate to ensure they had sufficient margin. And it worked.


  38. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 9:07 pm:

    ===Sorry OW but Word is right and it was precisely the strategy of the Rod campaign to saturate downstate to ensure they had sufficient margin. And it worked==

    Yep. I have had this discussion before, even pointed out how Vallas lost…

    I dunno where you see I don’t agree with that.

    ===I’m in agreement in principle with - Will Caskey -

    The message and speeches and trying to be his own person, and… ugh…

    Who is the Kennedy Base and where will that constituency grow from inside or outside traditional Democratic circles.

    I can point to where Pritzker, Biss, Pawar, where each of these campaigns see where a path leads, where a base exists, and how to grow beyond it to win.

    Kennedy has a puzzling campaign.

    Kennedy leads, according the last “public” poll seen, with a 44% name ID lead, and a good faith feeling from voters.===

    Are you saying its downstate? Not arguing, I’m asking where you see my miss?

    My point is “where is this measured Kennedy base?”.

    With respect.


  39. - Arsenal - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 8:45 am:

    One problem with comparing this to 2002 is that there’s been 16 years between the two primaries. While Rod made his bones by campaigning downstate while everyone else ignored it (and making sure he had a stalking horse in Chicago to make sure no one else ran away with it), I think the downstate primary vote is weaker now. I also don’t get the sense that any of the candidates, besides maybe Pawar, is neglecting downstate.


  40. - Will Caskey - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 12:34 pm:

    Wordslinger point but that’s not exactly what I was saying. Vallas made it a point to make downstate his base, which was never going to work, Burris spoiler in Chicago notwithstanding. Maybe that would have been different if Burris never got in and Vallas had a foothold in Chicago, maybe not.


  41. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 1:04 pm:

    –Vallas made it a point to make downstate his base, which was never going to work,–

    I don’t know how you figure Vallas made Downstate his “base.” The dude was afraid to fly at the time and barely budged from the city and burbs.

    The whole point of Mell bringing in Burris as a stalking horse was to knock down the Vallas vote in the city, where he had name recognition.

    Mell then had John G. working all the Downstate organizations for Blago. And that’s where he won it.


  42. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 1:04 pm:

    Pardon, 1:04 was me.


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