Bites at the apple

It is no secret that we have some of the highest property taxes in the country. In some communities, we’re beginning to reach the breaking point. During the recent debate on eliminating red-light cameras, municipalities expressed concern over losing revenue and would have to consider reducing local government. Imagine that…reducing local government.

In my over two years of serving as your state Representative, I’ve learned some interesting things about local government. They’re not always interested in reducing costs and are concerned about leaving consolidation up to the voters.

Here is an example. Last year, my colleague David McSweeney introduced and passed HB348 allowing voters in McHenry Country the opportunity to put a referendum on the ballot for the consolidation of townships and certain road districts in McHenry County. Seems like a reasonable idea right? Let’s leave these things up to the voters.

Wrong…this bill was passed in 2018 and was vetoed by former Republican Governor Bruce Rauner. When McSweeney ran the bill last year, it barely passed the second time. What’s even more interesting is who didn’t support this legislation. Half of the Republican caucus voted “no” or “present” on this bill. Current Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker signed this into law.

My point here isn’t to be partisan. However, from my perspective, consolidating local government must be a priority. That is why I’m proud to be sponsoring legislation to eliminate the Cook County Forest Preserve Police. Who’s been the most vocal in opposition to this concept? Democrats on the Cook County Board. In fact, they filed a resolution denouncing this idea and one member suggested that Springfield stay out of Cook County politics.

What I find to be funny about this is that when Cook County needs more money, they’re all too happy to seek Springfield’s help. But when it comes to fixing a broken system, they offer no solutions except raising taxes and protecting outdated fiefdoms.

This should clear up a very important misconception. There isn’t one party who favors consolidation more than the other. In fact, I’ll argue that both sides are guilty of grandstanding and blaming each other instead of actually doing something about it.

I’m proud to be running legislation around Tax Increment Financing (TIF) transparency. The original intent of TIF’s is to invest in areas needing economic redevelopment. What we’ve discovered is that this program has been used and abused regularly. Through over-inflated values and less public input, TIF’s aren’t being used as intended. My legislation will make this process much more transparent and ensure that developers aren’t the ones dictating the terms of TIFs. Seems reasonable right?

The lobbying body for municipalities has already come out opposing this bill. They claim that this will put more of a burden on local governments by having to provide more information. Why is this an issue if these are so valuable to communities? Shouldn’t we know how our locally elected officials are planning on spending our tax dollars and if TIF investments are in our best interest? The good news is that a lot of my fellow legislators in Springfield agree with me.

In the next few months, we’ll be introducing more legislation to reduce local government and get property taxes under control. The argument I hear all the time about reducing government is that it won’t save the taxpayers money, I just don’t buy it. Let me be clear, this isn’t going to be an easy process and it will take a lot of bites at the apple to get to the core. But it has to start somewhere, we have to start somewhere. The famous philosopher, Lao Tzu, once proclaimed that, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. It is time we strap on our walking shoes!

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