* A group founded by the Illinois Policy Institute…
The Liberty Justice Center is prepared to sue the Illinois Department of Revenue if the Senate’s latest budget proposal becomes law.
The Illinois Senate passed a series of tax hikes May 23 that would raise more than $5.4 billion in new tax revenue. In addition to increasing the personal income tax rate by 32 percent, the Senate bill would slap new taxes on services that previously were not taxed, including laundry and dry cleaning, storage, pest control, alarm systems, tattoos and piercings. It would also create new taxes on satellite TV and streaming services.
These new taxes on services, satellite TV, and streaming services aren’t just a nuisance; they are unlawful, according to attorneys at the Liberty Justice Center, a Chicago-based nonprofit law firm.
“The bill’s 1 percent tax on subscriptions to video entertainment violates the Internet Tax Freedom Act, a federal law that prohibits states from imposing taxes that discriminate against online commerce,” said Jeffrey Schwab, an attorney with the Liberty Justice Center. The bill’s 5 percent tax on satellite TV service – but not cable service – violates the Illinois Constitution’s Uniformity Clause, which requires the state to tax similar services at the same rate. And the bill’s tax on certain services – but not others – also violates the uniformity clause.
“If Senate Bill 9 becomes law, the Liberty Justice Center stands ready to immediately bring a lawsuit on taxpayers’ behalf to have these unlawful taxes struck down.”
These arguments are eerily similar to the Illinois Department of Revenue’s take on the Senate’s bill, even though the governor himself supports most of the bill’s components.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* The House Republican floor leader…
“People are fed up. Not just the constituents, the members of my chamber,” says Steve Andersson, a Republican House member from the Batavia area who was named GOP floor leader in January. “I think the Senate is equally if not more frustrated. People are just not willing to leave this place without a budget by May 31st.”
He continues, “Now, maybe we’re wrong. This place is leadership-driven… But I sense there is so much pent up frustration. I think we all recognize that we are letting the state burn. We’ve destroyed our social-service safety net. In my opinion, at this point, there’s not enough reform to counter the damage we’ve done to the state in the past two years. and so for me, the biggest win is to create stability in this state. I want the [Turnaround Agenda] reforms. I agree with the governor that there are things in there we need to do. But the number one reform in my world is predictability and sustainability. Because people will stay [in the state] if they know what the rules of the game are.”
*** UPDATE *** From Rep. Andersson…
I, like all other members of the General Assembly, admit that this budget impasse is doing no favors to Illinois’ financial outlook. In no way did I insinuate any kind of “revolt”. Instead, we need to be spending this time picking up where the Senate left off and continue negotiations to find agreement and get this done by May 31st.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* Last week, the House Democrats were expected to unveil their own plan during appropriations committee hearings today. But, as I told you Friday, the House Democrats caucused and couldn’t agree to a plan. They’ll be caucusing again later today, so in the meantime…
The Illinois House is holding a public review of a state budget plan.
Democratic leadership scheduled committee hearings Sunday afternoon for the $37.3 billion spending outline the Senate approved and sent across the state Capitol last week.
Senate Democrats adopted the proposal after they said they couldn’t wait for a negotiated agreement with Republicans. The General Assembly’s scheduled adjournment is Wednesday.
One main point of contention: Harris said House Democrats are united in their opposition to making the income tax hike retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year as the Senate called for. If lawmakers approved a higher rate starting at the first of the year, Illinoisans would have more money withheld from their paychecks to cover income from the first several months of 2017. The biggest question that remains, however, is what kind of tax proposal House Democrats could get behind, and whether they would be willing to pass it without Republican support.
Madigan has long insisted that Republicans must share in the responsibility — and blame — of raising taxes. But some Democrats frustrated with years of inaction say they’d rather be able to tell voters back home that they took a stand to help dig Illinois out of the financial morass, even it if it’s not politically popular.
They contend that no matter what path they take, Rauner is likely to go on the attack against them in next year’s legislative contests, similar to how he spent millions of dollars against Democrats in last year’s elections for the General Assembly.
- Posted by Rich Miller
Illinois Democratic senators Friday approved changes to the state’s workers’ compensation laws over the objections of Republicans who said the changes didn’t go far enough. […]
Changes to workers’ compensation have also been a demand of Rauner, who said it will improve the state’s business climate and help create jobs.
The Senate approved the bill on a 35-19 vote with one voting “present.” Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview, was the only Republican to vote for the legislation. […]
The changes include new standards for use of American Medical Association impairment guidelines, creation of standards for prescription drug coverage, categorizing certain injuries and review of workers’ compensation insurance rates. Democrats have long complained that savings from a 2011 revision of workers’ comp laws were not passed on to employers in the form of reduced rates.
“I think we have a good product here that should further reduce the cost to Illinois employers,” said Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago.
Despite Gov. Bruce Rauner saying earlier this week the Senate was within spitting distance of agreeing on meaningful fixes to Illinois’ workers’ compensation system, Democratic Senators passed bills sent to them by the House that Republicans and the state’s leading manufacturing group characterized as distractions and fake reforms. […]
Illinois Manufacturers’ Association’s Mark Denzler called the bill fake reform and something that will actually make the state’s climate worse. […]
Denzler said the governor should veto both measures.
“These are not workers’ compensation reform bills. These are not going to reduce costs. They’re not going to make Illinois more attractive,” Denzler said. “And really what you’re going to see with $5 billion in new taxes that were proposed and no reforms, you’re going to see every other state around Illinois sending thank you cards to the Senate Democrats.”
- Posted by Rich Miller
As state child welfare investigators probed allegations of abuse in the Joliet Township home where 17-month-old Semaj Crosby would later be found dead, their supervisor was launching a contest that awarded $100 gift cards to the two workers who closed the most cases in a month, according to agency interviews and internal emails examined by the Tribune.
The 3rd place winner would get a $50 gift card. […]
While the dollar amount of the Joliet contest was relatively low, DCFS Director George Sheldon told the Tribune that the competition was improper.
“Offering financial incentives like that I think is an inappropriate step,” Sheldon said in an interview Friday.
Go read the whole thing.
* DCFS report shows litany of failures in death of 17-month-old Semaj Crosby
- Posted by Rich Miller
Rauner has frequently touted his desire to increase the state’s share of funding for schools. It would take a significant tax increase to do it in a way that local property taxes could be pared back, though. At the moment, school districts and vendors are owed more than $1 billion because of the budget impasse’s effect on state cash flow and delayed payments, State Board of Education records show.
The acknowledgment that Senate Democrats might even consider a more modest temporary tax freeze for schools is a recognition that Rauner’s criticism over their lack of action may be having some political impact — something that has yet to be felt by Democrats in the House.
“I know (Rauner) knows it polls well. Everything he talks about he knows polls well,” said state Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat who is a key point person on budget issues.
* My weekly syndicated newspaper column…
A new statewide poll finds that strong opposition to an income tax hike to solve the state’s budget problems significantly eases when the tax increase is coupled with a property tax freeze.
That’s important because Gov. Bruce Rauner has insisted that he won’t approve any tax hikes or a budget without a four-year property tax freeze. Democrats in the General Assembly, however, have resisted the governor’s freeze proposal. And the Senate Democrats last week went ahead and passed a budget with tax hikes without including Rauner’s freeze.
The poll of 500 likely Illinois voters was taken May 23rd by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, a Republican firm. The poll’s questions that we’re going to look at today weren’t horribly biased, even though the poll was paid for by the Illinois Policy Institute (which for whatever reason didn’t include the property tax freeze numbers in its press release). The poll’s margin of error was +/-4.4 percent and 40 percent were reached via their mobile phones.
“One of the elements of a proposed solution for the Illinois state budget impasse involves raising the state income tax,” the pollster told respondents. “Do you favor or oppose a state budget that includes raising the state income tax?”
Just 31 percent favored an income tax hike, while 64 percent were opposed and 51 percent strongly opposed it. No surprise there. Every poll I’ve ever seen had numbers similar to those.
“One of the elements of a proposed solution for the Illinois state budget impasse involves raising the state income tax but at the same time enacting a property tax freeze,” respondents were told. “Do you favor or oppose a state budget that includes raising the state income tax but also includes a property tax freeze?”
The percent of those favoring the “hybrid solution” involving a freeze jumped 8 points to 39 percent. That’s still far from a majority, but not too bad, considering more money would be coming out of their pockets to fund a supremely dysfunctional state government.
The more dramatic movement came from the opposition. A slim majority of 51 percent were still opposed to the hybrid solution, but that’s down 13 points from the income tax-only question. And those who were strongly opposed, which indicates that they might cast their vote based on the topic, dropped 17 points, from 51 down to a mere 34.
So, it’s not difficult to see why Gov. Rauner has been talking about almost nothing but a property tax freeze lately. He did a bunch of TV and radio interviews last week saying he absolutely won’t sign a budget unless it includes the freeze. Simply put, the issue moves numbers.
The freeze is like that old Mary Poppins song, “A Spoonful of Sugar.” It helps the medicine go down, although definitely not in a “most delightful way.” There are undoubtedly other issues which could help make a tax hike more palatable, but we’re stuck with this one because the governor is so adamant about a win on this topic.
If you look at the crosstabs, you’ll find that 79 percent of Republicans are opposed to raising the income tax, but that opposition drops 20 points to 59 percent when coupled with a property tax freeze. Opposition by independents drops from 66 to 53. And opposition by Democrats falls from 52 to just 45.
Now, look at those who are strongly opposed to the hybrid plan that Rauner is pushing and the results are even more dramatic.
72 percent of Republicans were strongly opposed to an income tax hike, but that falls 28 points to 44 percent who were strongly opposed when the tax hike is coupled with a property tax freeze. 54 percent of independent voters strongly opposed an income tax increase, but just 39 percent opposed it when attached to a property tax freeze. And strong opposition dropped from 34 percent to 25 percent among Democrats.
Also, when respondents were given a choice, 45 percent said only cut spending and don’t raise taxes, while 41 percent said the state should cut some spending and raise some taxes. That’s exactly what the Senate Democrats did last week, but most people don’t know that.
However, when it was pointed out that “Illinois already pays the highest property taxes in the country and has the fifth highest overall tax burden,” and that some believe another tax hike would drive more people out of the state, 54 percent said only cut spending and don’t raise taxes, while just 36 favored a mix of cuts and tax hikes.
Property taxes are a killer issue. The Democrats need to come to terms with that.
* This column was based on a subscriber-only story from last week. I received this e-mail after it was published…
Thanks for including the poll in this morning’s email. Your take is fascinating – and perhaps representative of your point of view of the situation.
You want a deal. A budget, any budget. So you want to justify a tax increase. Therefore, when you look at these results you don’t see how the majority of Illinoisans feel; you see the most unpopular point of view and then attempt to mainstream it. It’d be like reporting on the most recent Kirk v. Duckworth contest, and leading with Kirk’s measly 40 percent. In our poll, only 16 percent of respondents “strongly favor” a hybrid solution (as you phrased it). More than half of respondents do not favor an income tax increase combined with a property tax freeze. That’s the dominant point of view.
There’s another way to look at that question, too. People who “somewhat favor” are essentially saying “Ehh…. maybe?” The fact that some people would maybe consider swapping an income tax increase for a property tax freeze illustrates the utter desperation of homeowners in Illinois. Remember, a freeze isn’t a great deal. We’d be freezing an already-high bill. But homeowners are seeing their property tax bills climb and their home values plummet. If they try to escape by reselling, it’s a nightmare. People are desperate, and that’s why some people would entertain the idea of keeping the higher taxes off their property tax bill and paying on the income side.
Of course, the bottom line from this poll is this: When the Illinois tax burden is mentioned, nearly every cohort shifts toward support for an all-cuts-and-no-tax-hike state-budget solution.
Vice President of Communications
Illinois Policy Institute
The poll is here, the crosstabs are here.
* Illinois Senate Democrats twerk taxpayers with latest budget attempt: [The Senate Democrats’] plan will take $1,124 from each household in the state for a total hike of $5.4 billion. They also want to extend the state sales tax to everything from home improvement services to tattoos to your Netflix subscription. For what? There’s no property tax relief in this plan. There are no reforms. There’s nothing to pay down the $14.4 billion bill backlog. It’s likely dead on arrival — even Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan was balking at it.
- Posted by Rich Miller
|Yeah, this will help
Sunday, May 28, 2017
* Keep in mind when reading this tweet that Gov. Rauner has supported a much bigger and broader service tax since the 2014 campaign and supports an income tax hike…
And I cannot figure out why they used a cartoon Abe in this thing, except perhaps to suck up to viewers and put the governor on the side of an American hero… or something. Your thoughts?
- Posted by Rich Miller
[Bumped up to Sunday for visibility.]
* From JB Pritzker…
Governor Rauner’s property tax freeze is just a political stunt. Since day one, Governor Rauner’s strategy has been to starve social service agencies and local governments to force the crisis we now suffer from. His cynical approach has often led to the increases in property taxes he claims he wants to freeze. Governor Rauner should stop playing politics and offering gimmicks and start doing the job he was elected to do, including putting Illinois on a path to fiscal responsibility and the state providing additional support for education funding.
* As you’ll recall, an Oak Park newspaper reported this the other day…
Pritzker said that he opposed a property tax freeze, a favorite Rauner talking point, saying local communities should make that decision.
Pritzker has since been slammed repeatedly by the ILGOP and the Chicago Tribune editorial page.
* Now, here’s the transcript of what was asked and what Pritzker said…
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Bruce Rauner was downstate earlier this week saying the two greatest problems for small business are property tax and workers comp. And I know you’ve done work on this. Could you just tell us what you think about that claim?
PRITZKER: The two biggest problems in the state are property tax and workman’s comp? Okay, lets talk about that. Property taxes are a pretty big issue, but it’s an issue for a different reason than he says it’s an issue. He polled a property tax freeze. And it polls really well, because nobody wants to pay higher property taxes. And so that polls really well, and that’s why you see his commercials, it’s one of the first things he lists of things that he wants to do.
Look, nobody wants higher property taxes, but we can’t hamstring all of our local governments that way.
Here’s what I want to do. If you raise revenue at the state level and pay for education at the state level – constitutionally mandated at 50%, we’re only providing 26% — if you raise revenue at the state level and do it on a progressive basis, local governments will have choices, you all will have choices about whether you want to lower your property tax revenue for your city.
If you want a property tax break, you should go get that. He’s not advocating anything like that, by the way. And so, the best he can do is say property tax freeze, and then he throws the problem at you, at the local level to figure out what you’re going to do if you need a property tax increase, or you need more revenue. He’s not creating any jobs, so we’re not creating any more revenue around – 0.5 percent job growth last year, which is in the bottom third of states. So that’s the property tax issue.”
This is also nicely timed ahead of Chris Kennedy’s expected property tax/school funding announcement on Tuesday.
[I put this up really late in the day and I’m about to close comments. You can still comment below, but they won’t be visible to anyone. However, I’ll “release” them from moderation on Sunday.]
- Posted by Rich Miller
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