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Pritzker administration slaps down “rain tax” “controversy”

Thursday, Dec 12, 2019

* From The Center Square

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is overworked and understaffed to the point that it is putting residents’ health in danger, according to a report from the University of Chicago.

“Despite the laudable efforts of many IEPA employees, the agency lacks the assets it needs to protect the environment and public health sufficiently,” the report said. “These deficiencies hinder its capacity to execute its historical mission and are barriers to overcome if Illinois chooses to step up efforts to ensure that environmental protection is not compromised.”

The report said the agency’s workforce has been cut by about 50 percent from 2003 to 2018. At the same time, the agency has been given more responsibility for regulating businesses and less in federal support in recent years. Mark Templeton, clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago, said the department isn’t capable of doing all it should to protect residents. […]

Since 2003, inspections of air-pollutant emitting facilities have declined by 81 percent, air-monitoring technology throughout the state is outdated and needs to be replaced, the report said.

The solution, the report said, is more funding from the state in the form of increased business fees and statewide charges on plastic bags and bottles and a statewide stormwater fee.

“There are costs that are incurred from, for example, runoff that picks up pollutants,” Templeton said. “The idea is to encourage practices such as retaining stormwater on property or building what’s called green infrastructure.”

IEPA spokeswoman Kim Biggs said the agency was working with Gov. J.B. Pritzker to find solutions.

“The Illinois EPA appreciates the report’s acknowledgment of some of the challenges faced by state government regulators,” she said. “Like many Illinois state agencies, headcount and resources have decreased steadily over a number of years and under a number of directors and administrations. The Pritzker Administration and the Illinois EPA have been actively working to boost hiring, find creative ways to increase revenues, and effectively enforce environmental laws and regulations.”

* That story prompted this reply by the Republican Governors Association

No stranger to tax hikes, Illinois Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker is looking to impose even more egregious costs on working families. In his first year as governor, Pritzker pushed for 19 tax hikes totaling nearly $7 billion, setting the tone for an administration hellbent on paying for his big government agenda out of taxpayers’ pockets.

Now Pritzker is at it again. He’s already thrown his weight behind a plan to scrap Illinois’ flat tax, and has donated $5 million of his own money to support a ballot initiative to implement a $3.4 billion progressive income tax that could cost a typical Illinois family up to $3,500.

But that’s not all! Behind the scenes, Pritzker appears be interested in following in the footsteps of failed New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and former Maryland Governor Martin “Unidentified Man” O’Malley by taxing the rain.

A blistering new report from the University of Chicago characterizes Pritzker’s Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) as, “overworked and understaffed to the point that it is putting residents’ health in danger.” The proposed fix? New fees on plastic bags and bottles and “a statewide stormwater fee” – a.k.a. a rain tax.

True to form, Pritzker’s administration left the door wide open to imposing a rain tax on Illinois citizens. A spokeswoman for the IEPA stated that the agency and Pritzker “have been actively working to…find creative ways to increase revenues.”

“Illinois taxpayers know all too well that when Governor Pritzker gets ‘creative’ with raising revenues, it means more money out of their pockets,” said RGA Communications Director Amelia Chassé Alcivar. “Illinois residents already pay the highest total tax rate in the country, but instead of running an efficient and effective government, Governor Pritzker continues to treat working families and small businesses as his administration’s piggy bank.”

* I asked the Pritzker administration for a response and this is from Press Secretary Jordan Abudayyeh…

Nice to see the RGA using their post-Kentucky and Louisiana free time to come on over to Illinois and make stuff up. While you won’t find any rain taxes here, what you will find is a governor working with bipartisan legislators to pass a balanced budget, cut taxes on business while creating tax credits for apprenticeship programs and R&D, and launching the first bipartisan capital plan in more than a decade. Sorry to rain on this parade, but these silly attacks from Republicans in DC just don’t hold water.

That response had some real zing to it.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

41 Comments
  1. - Anon221 - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 9:40 am:

    Chicken Littling a bit too much RGA (as usual).


  2. - former southerner - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 9:42 am:

    Most little kids quickly learn that the fun from telling lies quickly fades. Apparently some kids never learned that and they grew up to be the movers and shakers of the modern era GOP. A very nice response from Pritzker’s press sec.


  3. - TheInvisibleMan - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 9:42 am:

    ===progressive income tax that could cost a typical Illinois family up to $3,500.===

    The new republican motto seems to be ‘let’s see how many weasel words we can put into a single sentence.

    “It ‘could’ cost a typical family…”

    But it won’t.

    “‘up to’ $3,500″

    In a range between 0 and 3,500.

    While the response from the governors office was good, it would be even better to start turning these deliberate tricks of language back onto them next time.


  4. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 9:45 am:

    === Sorry to rain on this parade, but these silly attacks from Republicans in DC just don’t hold water.===

    Like a tasty cannoli with coffee, that’s some good word play.

    To the post,

    Until the RGA and the ILRaunerites can come up with a candidate to take on Pritzker, it’s no different than a letter to the editor, with drivel outsiders think will resonate, and also jumpstart the base, which is far less than it was since 2013 in Illinois.

    At least the RGA wants to keep Illinois “one state”. That gives me… hope?


  5. - RNUG - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 9:48 am:

    == is overworked and understaffed to the point that it is putting residents’ health in danger ==

    That could be said about multiple State agencies … EPA, ISP, DCFS come to mind immediately


  6. - efudd - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 9:57 am:

    Republicans-

    “The sky is falling and we are all doomed unless we cut taxes for the wealthy.”

    Democrats-

    “Let’s deal with this issue responsibly.
    And yes, that often includes tax increases.”


  7. - Shemp - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 9:59 am:

    IEPA, IDNR/OWR etc are slow as molasses at turning project approvals around, no doubt (it shouldn’t take 9 months for a culvert approval or 12 months for approval of a stormwater detention basin or over a year for a wastewater treatment permit). I can’t back it up, but feels like it’s 50% staffing, 25% added workload/regs pushed on them and 25% encumbered by their own rigid policies.


  8. - Cheryl44 - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 10:00 am:

    Every time someone uses the words ‘typical…family’ all I see is someone who doesn’t care about single people. Or orphans


  9. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 10:03 am:

    ** A blistering new report from the University of Chicago characterizes Pritzker’s Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) as, “overworked and understaffed to the point that it is putting residents’ health in danger.” **

    Thanks, GOP, for slashing regulations and opposing environmental protection. Also, the president, arguably the most powerful person in the world, just mocked a child because she’s recognized for her climate activism.

    ** “It ‘could’ cost a typical family…”

    But it won’t. **

    Correct. It’s an obvious lie. But go ahead, GOP, run on not cutting taxes for the majority just to protect the richest from paying more.


  10. - City Zen - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 10:07 am:

    Don’t think of it as runoff. Think of it as selling water back to the grid.


  11. - Donnie Elgin - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 10:08 am:

    Why bother with a rain tax when the progressive income tax sought by JB will create a flood of revenue.


  12. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 10:10 am:

    I look forward to the RGA press release in November of 2022 stating that their operation should not really be considered a failure because Todd Ricketts actually won more counties than JB Pritzker did.


  13. - Skeptic - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 10:14 am:

    “all I see is someone who doesn’t care about single people. Or orphans” Considering their fight to define marriage as “one man and one woman” somehow that seems on-brand.


  14. - Wylie Coyote - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 10:15 am:

    Many industrial facilities in Illinois already pay a “rain tax” - an annual “stormwater” permit fee of a minimum of $500 if it happens to rain on their parking lot. That check goes to Illinois EPA. Industrial facilities must also fork out $$ to develop and implement a stormwater pollution prevention plan, which must then be sent to IEPA to be approved. So yes, there already is an Illinois rain tax.


  15. - Bhj867 - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 10:20 am:

    I’m OK with tax increases as long as they compliment pay increases for the lower and middle class.


  16. - Blue Dog Dem - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 10:23 am:

    Cut taxes on businesses? Seriously? Try having a fleet of vehicles pulling trailers with trucks that get 4 mpg.


  17. - Rain King - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 10:25 am:

    For anyone who’s interested, the University of Chicago study the RGA mentioned is here: https://www.law.uchicago.edu/files/IEPA%20Report%20FINAL%2011.21.19.pdf

    Its actual recommendation, which the RGA alluded to, is this: “IEPA and the General Assembly should develop new sources of revenue, particularly sources designed to incentivize positive environmental decision-making, such as statewide plastic bottle or bag fees, water-quality utility fees, or storm water fees.”

    You can score political points using the misnomer “rain tax” to describe stormwater fees, but you can’t avoid the issue. The taxes don’t charge for rain, they charge for impermeable surfaces, like driveways, parking lots or roofs. Those cause problems because they don’t allow rain to enter the ground. Instead, the rain heads straight into taxpayer-funded sewers and sewage treatment systems.

    And if you don’t think THAT is a problem, you really need to read this piece on the Chicago area’s Deep Tunnel project: https://slate.com/business/2019/01/chicagos-deep-tunnel-is-it-the-solution-to-urban-flooding-or-a-cautionary-tale.html


  18. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 10:26 am:

    Pritzker’s statement (while amusing) didn’t say anything about funding the IEPA. This is something that has to be done. It boils down to everyone felling a little pain (taxes) or a few people feeling a lot of pain (for example a miscarriage or losing a child to cancer due to pollution.)


  19. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 10:36 am:

    On the plus side, that dishonest and hyperbolic statement from the Republican Governors Association does give us a clearer idea about whom our friends on the Tribune Editorial Board have been auditioning for.

    – MrJM


  20. - DIstant watcher - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 10:43 am:

    Does this signal that the new Illinois News Network and the Illinois Policy Institute that was affiliated with it now support more staff and more funding for the state agency? And they support the taxes needed to make that possible?

    Bueller?


  21. - Lefty Lefty - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 10:45 am:

    Thank you for including the link to the report, Rain King.

    I asked this the last time the UoC report was mentioned here: how come the Illinois EPA budget recovered after the 2008-09 crash, but staffing didn’t? The Bureau of Water is a shell of itself. The Leaking UST Section in the Bureau of Land is barely functioning at the moment. (This is from personal knowledge and experience.)

    As I mentioned to my 16-year-old when he asked why everything seems so messed up right now: there are solutions to all of the problems. We humans are smart enough and capable enough to solve all of them. And then we get in our own way.


  22. - Lucky Pierre - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 10:57 am:

    Thanks GOP?

    Which party has had more influence in Springfield from 2003-2018?


  23. - JB13 - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 11:09 am:

    – The taxes don’t charge for rain, they charge for impermeable surfaces, like driveways, parking lots or roofs –

    Maybe a reporter could ask the Governor specifically if he opposes *that* kind of tax, instead of letting his spokespeople spike an out-of-town stupid attempt at a partisan jab.


  24. - Cubs in '16 - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 11:21 am:

    “Now Pritzker is at it again. He’s already thrown his weight behind a plan…”

    Considering the tone of the rhetoric in the rest of the RGA’s statement, I suspect this is an intentional reference to the governor’s size. Not cool and not clever. Grow up.


  25. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 11:23 am:

    === Which party has had more influence in Springfield from 2003-2018?===

    Narrator: The alleged Republican Governor solely held the state hostage, without a budget, for an entire General Assembly from July 1, 2015, to August 31, 2017.


  26. - Demoralized - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 11:29 am:

    OW:

    You should know by now that LP is a one hit wonder. Different day, same talking point.


  27. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 11:36 am:

    - Demoralized -

    I just read it like a fun mockumentary, usually with a narrator.

    You can’t make up his brand of humor.

    To my earlier question, if the RGA decides to go after their own “billionaire”, but “conservative”, Bruce Rauner ruined that path did a while, so their take here gets more confusing the more i think about the why.


  28. - Demoralized - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 11:40 am:

    The Repubican Governor’s Association might want to reflect on why their Republican Governor lost the last election by nearly 16 points.

    ==instead of running an efficient and effective government,==

    They may have wanted to ask their Republican Governor why he wasn’t able to do either of those things during his 4 years in office.


  29. - Lucky Pierre - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 11:44 am:

    One hit wonder like absolving the Democrats for the cut in funding to the IEPA for 15 years because a Republican Governor was in office for 4 of those years

    Same as always, deny the truth and shoot the messenger


  30. - Demoralized - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 11:45 am:

    ==He’s already thrown his weight behind a plan to scrap Illinois’ flat tax==

    He ran on that. And beat the incumbant Governor by almost 16 points.


  31. - Lucky Pierre - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 11:46 am:

    Rauner is a billionaire?

    Don’t worry I won’t stop you, you are on a roll but don’t ever let the facts get in the way of a great stpry


  32. - R A T - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 11:47 am:

    Yesterday’s miracle lovefest lasted as long as we all expected.

    OW: You should know by now that LP is a one hit wonder. Different day, same talking point.


  33. - levivotedforjudy - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 12:01 pm:

    After reading the response, I immediately want to join the Jordan Abudayyeh Fan Club. Smooth Snark!


  34. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 12:02 pm:

    == find creative ways to increase revenues,==
    Here’s a creative was to increase revenues: Fund the IEPA so people don’t get sick and they can pay their taxes.
    Or decrease spending. Here’s a creative way to decrease spending: fund the IEPA so the state doesn’t spend money on Medicaid when people get sick.


  35. - City Zen - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 12:11 pm:

    There’s a Pritzker-cannonball joke in here somewhere if RGA can find it.


  36. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 12:54 pm:

    Trump slashed the EPA, including his EPA getting rid of long-fought for pollution monitoring at a waste management plant right after he got elected. Hope to be around when there just aren’t enough voters who support environmental cuts and stripping of regulations, who support corporate polluters getting richer at their expense. In some key states, that might not be too far in the future.

    https://www.bettergov.org/news/trump-rolls-back-epa-oversight-in-midwest-favoring-polluters/


  37. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 1:09 pm:

    (Sigh)

    Reading is fundamental.

    === if the RGA decides to go after their own “billionaire”, but “conservative”,===

    If you think Rauner was a true conservative, Jeanne Ives has an ad for you - Lucky Pierre - ugh.

    === Republican Governor was in office for 4 of those years===

    Two of those years? No budget at all.

    Where is Greta to bridge the gap?


  38. - Demoralized - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 3:21 pm:

    ==but don’t ever let the facts get in the way==

    You certainly don’t.

    You are so, so, so tiresome.


  39. - Demoralized - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 3:23 pm:

    ==like absolving the Democrats ==

    Didn’t do that. But you keep up your victim mentality. Grow up.

    ==Same as always==

    lololol. Says the broken record.


  40. - Realist - Thursday, Dec 12, 19 @ 4:42 pm:

    I’m confused by this post.

    How does the PR response in anyway “slap down” that they’re considering a storm-water fee (i.e. rain tax)?

    All she does is insult them, make false claims, and then accuse them of making things up without refuting a shred of what they said.


  41. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 7:04 am:

    ==Many industrial facilities in Illinois already pay a “rain tax” - an annual “stormwater” permit fee of a minimum of $500 if it happens to rain on their parking lot. That check goes to Illinois EPA.==
    Some local governments collect a storm water fee. It doesn’t go to the IEPA. Local governments spend money on anti flooding infrastructure and they use the taxes to recoup their costs.


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