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*** UPDATED x1 *** Grandstanders rarely propose their own ideas

Monday, May 13, 2019

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

If you listen closely to what Democratic state Reps. Sam Yingling and Jonathan Carroll are saying in public about their opposition to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s graduated income tax proposal, they appear to believe that Pritzker’s proposed tax rates aren’t high enough.

Yingling and Carroll are both demanding significant property tax relief. “In Illinois,” Rep. Yingling wrote in the Chicago Tribune last week, “the disproportionate reliance on and financial burden of property taxes to fund government — roads and bridges, education, police, fire and other essential services — is devastating.”

“My constituents are concerned that their taxes will go up without essential property-tax relief,” Carroll was quoted as saying.

No sane person would argue that property taxes are too low in this state. Yingling didn’t mention school spending in his letter to the Tribune, but that’s by far the largest item in the local levies. And that’s why both Yingling and Carroll signed on to a resolution during the last General Assembly opposing a proposed shift of pension costs from the state to local school districts, which would’ve driven up property taxes much higher than they already were.

But unless a solution to this mess involves a Bruce Rauner-style elimination of collective bargaining rights for unions, or drastic cuts to school classrooms and to municipal operations (which both Yingling and Carroll would oppose), combined with a wholesale elimination of state mandates and sweeping forced district consolidations, then lowering property taxes right away will require lots more money from the state. And state money doesn’t grow on trees as it does at the federal level.

Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, has been working on this issue for years and told me that significant state-funded property tax relief would cost about $7 billion to $8 billion every year. That means almost quadrupling Gov. Pritzker’s proposed $3.4 billion tax hike on upper-income Illinoisans. Or, if the flat tax was kept in place, it would require at least a couple of percentage points added to the current income tax rate, taking it to almost 7 percent for everybody.

Rep. Yingling, however, voted against the 2017 income tax increase that ended the state’s two-year budget impasse. Rep. Carroll was not yet appointed to his seat when that bill became law over Gov. Rauner’s veto.

State funding and lots more were all discussed during the property tax working group meetings set up and facilitated by the governor’s office that both Yingling and Carroll attended — although Carroll reportedly missed the final meeting. Yingling reportedly suggested some ideas, but no agreements could be reached, mainly because if this was so easy it would’ve been done decades ago.

Property taxes have been a major issue in this state since the 1980s, when the share of the state’s funding of schools started sliding downward and local property taxes started shooting up. A half a point was added to the income tax in 1989 as a sort of “welcoming present” to newly elected Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Half of the increase went to schools and the other half went to local governments.

But that money eventually got rolled back into GRF and the state did things like cap suburban property tax increases, which, as homeowners in Yingling’s Lake County will certainly attest, obviously didn’t work as advertised.

Rep. Yingling passed just four of his House bills this year. None of them were bad ideas, but none would significantly reduce anyone’s property tax bills, either.

Rep. Carroll passed a bill (co-sponsored by Yingling) to place yet another unfunded state mandate on local schools to make sure third-party driver education teachers were properly certified. Those sorts of mandates drive up local taxes.

Nobody can read anyone’s mind, but Rep. Yingling’s 2017 income tax hike vote probably explains a lot more about his current refusal to support the graduated tax than his stated concerns about property taxes. He perpetually votes like a vulnerable targeted member, even though his district is now pretty safely Democratic. And Rep. Carroll has a whole lot of high-income constituents in his even more Democratic Northbrook area district who likely aren’t pleased with the prospect of paying more money to the state.

The fact that neither legislator bothered to give the governor’s office a courtesy heads-up on their intentions to publicly oppose the plan also speaks volumes.

If these two seriously want to significantly reduce property taxes, then they should introduce a bill to actually do it – and to pay for it. Otherwise, they’re just grandstanding and forcing everyone else do the heavy lifting.

*** UPDATE *** Rep. Carroll confirmed my suspicion that he wanted even higher state spending to lower property taxes. From Mark Maxwell’s Capitol Connection

Maxwell: You’ve already singled out the property tax thing. How do you address that though at the state level because so many local governments are the ones that make those decisions? How does the state force their hand?

Carroll: We have to fund education better. I mean, that’s the bottom line. Almost 70 percent of property tax bills go to education. We have to find a way to fund education better through the state.

And that means more money, and money doesn’t grow on trees. Unless he wants huge cuts to state programs (Narrator: He doesn’t) Carroll is arguing here for even higher tax levels that Pritzker is proposing.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Roman - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 9:34 am:

    The easiest thing to do in politics is to be against something.

  2. - Perrid - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 9:40 am:

    Don’t ban me Rich, but “forcing everyone else do the heavy lifting” should be “forcing everyone else [to] do the heavy lifting”

    And yeah, this was my first reaction to it, though you obviously put more meat behind it. If this plan isn’t good enough, what IS good enough Representative?

  3. - wordslinger - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 9:41 am:

    The arithmetic is unforgiving. If you want to cut local property taxes and state taxes, you’re advocating massive cuts to K-12. Same as it ever was.

    I’m certain that lawmakers beating that drum are aware.

  4. - PublicServant - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 9:45 am:

    Maybe you ought to add another category to your annual awards, Rich. Most spineless politician. Stiff competition for that one, I’m sure.

  5. - Grandson of Man - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 9:46 am:

    We’ll see if this concern is legitimate or if it’s a ruse or smokescreen to flat-out oppose a graduated income tax.

    The legislators need to come up with proposals, if they’re going to front the governor of their party in the media. That was not a nice thing to do. They should be taken to the bowels of the Capitol and given…a very stern talking-to. Pritzker doesn’t need any [expletive] problems with his main policy item.

  6. - MG85 - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 9:51 am:

    ==“The fact that neither legislator bothered to give the governor’s office a courtesy heads-up on their intentions to publicly oppose the plan also speaks volumes.”==

    I agree on the premise, disagree on the conclusion. This does speak volumes, but the fact they went on the record and explicitly stated they haven’t spoken to the Governor only his staff tells me more about JB than them.

    The good news for JB is that Fair Tax can be passed in special session since the vote threshold remains the same, but rewarding such bad behavior from these 2 Reps will only encourage legislators to follow suit and get their pet projects included. As the old saying goes, Squeaky wheel gets the grease.

  7. - Unknown - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 10:00 am:

    Is this potentially a sign of problems with his administration and less with the Reps? To have only two meetings on such an important issue tells me that the Governor’s people aren’t collaborating with the legislature. Maybe Mr. Miller, you should ask JB’s people that question. Or maybe you should ask them why JB wasn’t directly working with them early on. Sure, these statements might seem without backup, but is it possible that they did propose plans and the Governor’s people weren’t listening.

    I don’t know either one of these gentlemen but my contention is they’re trying making the Governor and his staff work a little harder on such an important issue. Isn’t that something we should be applauding?

  8. - frustrated GOP - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 10:00 am:

    I would guess the amount of money that goes from the State to TRS to cover the pensions of teachers in those districts up north is a lot more then downstate. It might not be an bad idea to switch TRS payments to the Districts, with a transfer of State money to the School district. That way everyone can see how much those pensions are costing, and perhaps the Schools can figure out a way to lower the costs when charged with covering the cost.

  9. - Perrid - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 10:03 am:

    MG85, really? Yingling and Carroll said they had “voiced concerns” to the governor’s staff. That does NOT mean they told the governor’s office that they were going to publicly oppose the bill. If they did tell JB’s people that, then you might have a point. Until someone explicitly tells me that though, I’m inclined to believe this was an ambush.

  10. - Anonish - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 10:03 am:

    I have heard this from several people over the years and I think it still holds true, a property tax freeze forced by Springfield is good politics and terrible policy.

  11. - State of DenIL - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 10:12 am:

    Everyone wants to get money; noone wants to pay money.

    The graduated income tax is meant to generate necessary revenue for the state. The only alternative is to raise taxes on everybody.

    Complaining and whining is easy. Governing is hard.

  12. - Just Me 2 - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 10:19 am:

    State of DenIL - I would argue that you are incorrect when the ONLY solution is to raise taxes on everyone. We could do budget cuts.

  13. - Resident of Yingling’s District - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 10:21 am:

    I live in the district Sam currently represents. Here in district 62, we supported Pritzker who has a clear mandate for the fair tax and we also re-elected Yingling.

    Sam has won 4 times now. He had an opponent in the last election who received little backing. Sam wasn’t targeted.

    Yingling does very much enjoy grand standing.

    During the last election, he made a loud, visible play out of his push to make the Lake County Assessor an elected office. Thing of it is, this change would reduce property taxes by about, wait for it… NOTHING!!

    As voters who pay absurdly high crippling property taxes here in Lake County, we do not share Sam Yingling’s enjoyment of grand standing. This is way too important of an issue to play games with. Treating us like pawns and suckers is not appreciated.

  14. - Rich Miller - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 10:24 am:

    ===we do not share===

    How about speaking for yourself unless you have numbers to back you up? Thanks.

  15. - Perrid - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 10:42 am:

    Just Me 2, you want $7 BILLION in budget cuts? Even cutting that number in half, you are still looking at 9-10% of the budget, all for one thing, property tax relief. Good luck with that.

  16. - UIC Guy - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 10:54 am:

    I though he was arguing for a reformed arithmetic, in which 2+2 = about 17. /s

  17. - Robert the Bruce - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 10:54 am:

    I don’t think Carroll is arguing for higher tax levels. I think instead he is arguing forcefully against arithmetic.

  18. - MG85 - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 11:07 am:

    ==That does NOT mean they told the governor’s office that they were going to publicly oppose the bill.==

    I didn’t write that it did. JB should have known what their issues/positions were on this bill. It is his key piece of legislation. I pointed to the lawmakers’ comments to highlight his ineptitude not their willingness to be transparent.

    I don’t expect JB to be a mind-reader. I expect him to talk to every single lawmaker about his most important piece of legislation that he campaigned on. Commercials and witty Facebook posts won’t cut it in the ILGA.

  19. - Grandson of Man - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 11:11 am:

    I agree with more state funding and higher rates for upper incomes, particularly for those making over $500,000 a year. But this is a super-tough needle to thread. Pritzker also needs to do his part and negotiate to try to get Rep. Carroll and others on board.

  20. - Hamlet's Ghost - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 11:16 am:

    Won’t the graduated tax referendum be on the ballot at the same time the two reps are running for re-election?

    Would voting against the bill commit them to campaigning against the bill during the election?

  21. - TNT - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 11:20 am:

    Maybe it’s just a convenient excuse for someone who’d rather vote no, but you can’t give on-the-fence legislators the out of claiming they haven’t heard from the governor this late on something this important.

    You’d think JB’s folks would have checked with the Speaker’s staff weeks ago to identify and start working the 15 to 20 House Dems least likely to vote for the “fair tax.” And “working” would include one-on-one meetings with the Guv in which the member would be assured that JB would have their back in a substantial way come re-election time. If they haven’t done that, they’re doing it wrong.

  22. - Honeybear - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 11:54 am:

    -We could do budget cuts.-
    They are already being factored in. I keep hearing 6% and 10% already baked to agency budgets being submitted to Pritzker.
    This is on top of the Rauner destruction of the workforce. The accountability Illinois website was changed so that the average person can no longer tell how small the workforce has become but at the start of Rauner we were the smallest state workforce per capita of all 50 states. At one point I think in 2017 I estimated that we were down 31%. Now because of the website change I don’t know where we are. I do know that Pritzker
    Is NOT hiring replacements or restaffing.
    So when you say cuts
    at this point
    we would probably be cutting into vital function
    Lawmakers don’t do the actual work of government
    They create law and statute
    State employees execute and maintain
    what they create
    Look what Rauner did to DHS, IDOC and the veterans.
    Not trying to be mean
    But folks if we cut more
    we’re in the marrow.

  23. - Oswego Willy - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 11:55 am:

    To the Post,

    The lack of honesty to thought is probably the bigger sin than others here.

    They should allegedly know…

    ===Rep. Carroll confirmed my suspicion that he wanted even higher state spending to lower property taxes. From Mark Maxwell’s Capitol Connection…

    …And that means more money and money doesn’t grow on trees. Unless he wants huge cuts to state programs (Narrator: He doesn’t) Carroll is arguing here for even higher tax levels that Pritzker is proposing.===

    The sheer lack of honesty is troubling.

    The “Yingling Thing”, it appears, is more about thinking Yingling is a fighter of some sort, but comes off as someone who is now seen… as not much of a team player, understanding policy and math.

    The trend with Yingling is one trending downward, looking more isolated, seemingly more of a loner than a leader.

    Marry that to the grandstanding, not much of a change from Drury or Franks, not serving that area at all well.

    The reason there’s no endgame is grandstanding is never about solutions, but being as big of a problem then the problem itself is.

    Mr. Yingling is trending downward.

    Soon we all may miss Drury?

  24. - Generic Drone - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 12:16 pm:

    @honerbear. Agreed. My workforce doing hands on work has been reduced by%50. I don’t think there is any more meat on the bone.

  25. - Honeybear - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 12:19 pm:

    As I said last week
    I am convince that the actions of
    Yingling and Carroll
    are perfidy
    in the service of privilege.
    The wealthy yanked their collar
    gave them a “correction”
    They put this out there publically.
    This was a statement
    I disagree with Rich
    It’s not because they want higher taxes
    It’s because they are advocating for less taxes
    for the privileged and wealthy of their districts
    I see it as a moral failing.
    97% won’t see relief so that
    their 3% won’t see a
    increase in their income taxes.
    So they commit this perfidy.
    They put in jeopardy
    Their own parties
    Number One Priority
    serve the wealthy privileged.
    That’s pure selfishness.
    Shame on their districts
    Shame on Yingling and Carroll

  26. - Surgevoter - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 12:25 pm:

    —-Won’t the graduated tax referendum be on the ballot at the same time the two reps are running for re-election?

    Would voting against the bill commit them to campaigning against the bill during the election?—-
    That is a great point Hamlets Ghost!

  27. - Just Stop - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 12:26 pm:

    Two legislators in more affluent districts traditionally held by Republicans voting “no” on this isn’t exactly man bites dog.

    A total CYA move. Pretty predictable.

  28. - Honeybear - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 12:38 pm:

    -The reason there’s no endgame is grandstanding is never about solutions, but being as big of a problem then the problem itself is.-


  29. - siriusly - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 12:47 pm:

    Carroll won’t say it, but yes. I think that there are many legislators agree with the conclusion Rich.

    In order to deliver property tax reductions, you need the income rates to be much higher. It’s painful - but members like Carroll are already going to get hit for the fair tax. Why not bump the numbers up and actually produce some relief and fairness

  30. - Rich Miller - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 12:49 pm:

    === Why not bump the numbers up and actually produce some relief and fairness===

    Whatever floats your boat. Just be honest about it.

  31. - Not a Billionaire - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 12:57 pm:

    7 billion would cut the PTX in half but why not go for a 10 percent cut as a compromise. It’s not token and puts them on the spot.

  32. - Rich Miller - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 1:00 pm:

    ===7 billion would cut the PTX in half===

    I think it’s less than a third.

  33. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Monday, May 13, 19 @ 5:48 pm:

    Would voting against the bill commit them to campaigning against the bill during the election?

    No. The referendum is totally up to the voters. Yingling and Carroll don’t have to even mention it unless they want to. For the voters it’s another hole to poke.

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