Robbing the City of Effingham to Pay for Effingham County Schools

Updated & edited to reflect information learned from the Dec. 3rd Effingham City Council meeting.

 

Late last year, many of the area school boards started floating the idea of a 1% countywide sales tax increase to pay for buildings & maintenance within their districts. Effingham Unit 40, being the largest school district, balked at the idea. With 52% of the students in the county, the other school districts had to wait until Effingham Unit 40 was ready to vote to place the issue on the ballot. That waiting it seems has come to an end.

The proposed idea would be a “tax swap”. The county school districts will ask the county voters to pass a 1% sales tax increase in exchange for property tax relief. According to Mark Doan, Superintendent of Effingham Unit 40, the increase in sales tax would generate $5.3 million which would then be divided up based on school district population – so Effingham Unit 40 will receive 52% of the $5.3 million totally roughly $2.7 million. The rest of the money would go to the other school districts within the county.

With money being raised from the sales tax increase, the respective school boards would then lower their property tax rates. The amount saved would vary on which school district a person owned property.

What really is happening here is a TAX INCREASE, NOT A SWAP! Plus, the sales tax increase that the school districts are asking the county to pass is actually a tax on the City of Effingham!!!!

This “solution” to the budget woes of the area school districts is flawed in so many ways it’s hard to find a place to start!

1. The sales tax increase is permanent. There is no sunset to this tax increase.

2.  Effingham Unit 40 residents will be “saving” nearly half of what other county school district residents will see yet Effingham will be the one being taxed the most (more on that further down).

3. The sales tax increase will hurt economic development in Effingham. Effingham has one of the lowest sales taxes at 6.5% in the state & as such, it helps Effingham when recruiting & retaining businesses. Plus, with the special tax district located at Kohl’s, people will be paying 8.5% sales tax (Kohl’s has a 1% special tax district rate on top of the standard 6.5% rate).

4. The sales tax increase is not a solution to the district budget woes, only a band-aid on the problem. As budget woes continue in the future, any “savings” in property taxes will evaporate as property taxes increase to accommodate the costs of public education.

5. The sales tax increase will not solve in-class budgetary problems since the sales tax increase money can only be used for buildings & maintenance.  In addition, with more money & less pressure on the overall budget, teacher unions could argue for more compensation & benefits which they have allowed to erode over time due to those same budget concerns. As a result, property taxes could increase to pay for any possible costs associated with future contracts with the teacher unions. Brian Costin with the Illinois Policy Institute in an Oct. 29, 2012 article in the LaSalle News Tribune stated,

“We have found some districts use the sales tax to pay off bonds which frees up property taxes for other things such as increases in salaries & benefits. So there wouldn’t be any real property tax savings or abatement in those cases. It’s definitely possible that a teachers union would look at this as an opportunity at the negotiating table”.

6. The sales tax increase will not keep property taxes low forever. In the same article quoted above, LaSalle County passed a .5% sales tax increase to build Peru Elementary. The district’s property tax was reduced for a total of 3 years before the levy exceeded the pre-sales tax increase rate. Who is to say it won’t happen in Effingham County as well?

7. The sales tax increase will give the area school districts carte blanche to build & spend on their facilities at will without any further input from their respective district residents. When the current Effingham High School was built, it took 2 ballot tries to get it passed & it only passed the 2nd time largely due to the city of Effingham kicking in $4.1 million in TIF money to reduce the amount needed to bond out for construction of EHS. The voters will be ceding their right to check the spending of their local school districts if they pass this sales tax increase.

8. The sales tax increase could result in further reduction of state funds for area schools. How? The state could view the increase in revenues as a chance to further reduce funding for our districts since the area school districts would have an alternate source of revenue outside of state funding. There is no current state law that requires the state to continue to fund our schools at their current levels in communities where this sales tax increase has been passed.

9. The sales tax increase is such a awesomely good idea that only 8 counties have passed it out of 102 counties in Illinois! If it’s such great business sense to increase the sales tax to help fund schools, why haven’t the other 94 counties passed this great tax increase?!

10. Where is the data that shows new school buildings will spur economic development or cause people to move into Effingham County?

11. The argument that 54% of purchases are made by people outside the county of Effingham is a straw man position. It’s being used to get people to think they won’t be taxing themselves but that they will be taxing “other people”.

12. This is a tax directly on the city of Effingham itself since 88% of all sales tax in the county is generated within the city limits of Effingham. As astutely pointed out by conservative activist Stephanie Rieman & also mentioned by Commissioner Matt Hirtzel at the Nov. 19th Effingham City Council meeting, every voter within the city of Effingham could vote no on the sales tax increase & it could still be imposed upon the city by a majority of voters in the county. Must be nice to be able to tax someone else for your direct benefit.

13.  How much more money does Effingham Unit 40 need? When is enough, enough? We get taxed by the federal government which pays for federal grants to schools. We get taxed by Illinois on our income to pay for schools. Lottery money supposedly pays for schools. 60% or so of your property tax bill goes to schools. When you register your kid for school, you pay activity fees, etc. The last year we registered our son & daughter at EHS, we had to pay about $500 in fees alone. All that taxation & fees for public schools & I didn’t even mention how much it costs for lunch money every week.

14. The sales tax increase is a regressive tax! The upper class can afford the extra expense of the increased sales tax on purchases & they will also see the greatest reduction in their property taxes (see point #2). The middle class & the lower class residents, who are already on tight budgets, will feel the weight of this tax the most. In addition, the lower class & lower middle class residents are more likely to rent than to own a home & therefore will not see any benefit promised by the area school district superintendents.

15. The sales tax increase will force those residents who choose to send their kids to private schools to pay even more for public schools that they don’t use. The school districts want their money though yet we can’t use school vouchers to use tax money to pay for school choice?

16. What happens if (when) Illinois forces the local school districts to handle teacher pensions? You will see your property tax “swap” disappear nearly overnight.

17. Illinois raised income taxes 67%. Now you will be asked to raise the sales tax rate by 15% from 6.5% to 7.5%.

18. How is it that all the area school districts (including private schools) have seen a reduction in number of students since 2005, yet they all need more money via a sales tax increase…on top of Effingham Unit 40′s 6.25% increase to this year’s property tax levy?? As reported by Greg Sapp at WXEF,

Doan also shared the fall housing report for the districts in Effingham County.  Unit 40 enrollment is down 4% from last year and is down 13.21% since 2005.  In that same period, Beecher City district enrollment is down 33% and Teutopolis district enrollment has dropped 23.4%.  Dieterich district enrollment has dropped 9.6% and Altamont district enrollment is about steady from 2005.  

As far as parochial school enrollment, Sacred Heart enrollment is down 27.9%, St. Anthony Grade School enrollment is down 8.4%, and St. Anthony High School enrollment is down 17.5% since 2005.

That means a drop of 15.2% in enrollment in the county since 2005.

Coincidentally, a 13.21% decrease in students over the course of nearly 10 years has not been met with a 13.21% decrease in the amount of administration or administrative salaries.

19. The most shocking part about the sales tax increase??? QUID PRO QUO. It has been communicated to myself & at least one other Commissioner via City Administration & others that we shouldn’t fight so hard against this sales tax increase because we need Superintendent Mark Doan’s help when we revisit the TIF & Enterprise Zones in the near future because Mark Doan sits on both of those boards. In other words, it has been suggested that we pull our punches because if the schools get what they want, then we will get what we want.

As you can see this sales tax increase is first & foremost a tax DIRECTLY on the city of Effingham. From there, you can now see how HORRIBLE of an idea increasing the sales tax is. As an elected Commissioner on the Effingham City Council, I have to put our city residents’ needs first & keep in mind what is best for our city as a whole, now & in the future. I will not be intimidated by anyone to be quiet about this. I will not hush my voice on this issue because of some kind of  “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality. This sales tax increase proposal is wrong, plain & simple. I will not stand watching our city be directly taxed & then watch the redistribution of wealth of tax dollars to residents outside our city. I urge you to call your school board members & demand they vote no on placing the sales tax increase on the ballot. Effingham Unit 40 is the key. If they vote for this, then the other districts can & will vote for the sales tax increase ballot.

Brian Milleville, Commissioner of Public Health & Safety, Effingham City Council

Making A Bachelor’s Degree Cost $10,000?

h/t Bruno Behrend for the article find.

College is expensive for students/parents & the taxpayers pure & simple. A recent article in the Washington Post discusses how to lower college costs & is based off of a report by the Third Way think-tank that highlights how a $10,000 Bachelor’s Degree would work through 6 reforms of the college system. I have some further suggestions myself & I encourage you to read the article as my comments under each proposal are reflective upon my take of what I read.

1. Reduce administration

This doesn’t mean instructors but the administrators of the college which according to the article accounts for roughly 70% of a college’s budget. One area specifically I agree with changing the academic adviser role to a professional based academic counselor. I learned pretty quick while in college that neither your major adviser nor the university’s academic advisers were of no help whatsoever. The major advisers were the worst pumping you with bad information about job prospects when you get out of school & prodding you to do additional coursework to “make yourself more marketable”.

2. Reduce perks

The author of the study cuts dorms, food service, sports program subsidies amongst others “perks”. The study suggests that if a student wants those perks that they should pay for it, not the taxpayer. Of course you pay already pay extra for living in a dorm & you pay for a meal plan for food service. However, what the real cost is for dorms/food service vs subsidized costs is beyond me. Sports & extracurricular activities would be extremely difficult to change given how much money is involved in those areas inside & outside of college. It’s almost like the military-industrial complex only it’s the sports-industrial complex.

3. Boost graduation

The study suggests that graduation have a self-paced component to it vs based more on how many years of classroom time a person sees. I can see this approach taking root as more classes are available online. Colleges already offer accelerated course work during the summer when they offer 6 or 8 week courses worth the exact same about of credit hours than if you sat in a class for 18 weeks.

4. Blended learning

Interesting concept of melding together technology & real-life interaction between instructor & between students. When I was in my education classes, our professors always wanted us to utilize technology as much as our classroom would allow. Interactive videos, presentations, etc. were to be integrated in nearly every lecture or lesson plan. Long gone were the days of popping in a video in lieu of actual teaching.

5. Fewer majors

The author of the study breaks down all majors into a few areas: “engineering, biology, education, computer science, English, communication, accounting and economics”.  A great line from the 1994 movie PCUThat’s the beauty of college these days, Tommy! You can major in Game Boy if you know how to bullshit.“. At some point, we’ve made fun of some major we considered absurd. However, there is some element of truth in our taunting of certain majors as in just because you are at college, it doesn’t mean that a college has to provide a major for what you want to study. Another way to put it is why should the taxpayers provide funding if you want to major in Underwater Basket Weaving?

6. Four levels of college

The author says there should be 4 levels of college with each college focused on a different style of student/studies ranging from adult to research to remediation. Interesting but I’m not sure that diversification of actual colleges are the answer compared to offering those same programs within the current structure is better.

I feel there are two additional reforms that could be implemented immediately that would lower the cost of a Bachelor’s Degree significantly.

7. No General Education requirements

Eliminate the re-teaching of college students. Taxpayers fund students’ education in high school & if the students haven’t learned Math, English or Science before they go to college then that is the fault of the high school and/or the students. We as taxpayers should not have to pay for our colleges to teach kids subject matter they should have already been taught before getting to college. Colleges call these Gen. Ed. requirements an attempt to create a “well-rounded individual”. In reality, our colleges are forcing students/taxpayers to pay for 1 1/2 to 2 years of classes BEFORE they get to take their major courses in years 3 & 4. Eliminating Gen. Ed. requirements would allow college students to graduate in about 2 years depending on their major & cut a huge portion of college costs in the process.

8. Allowing credits to transfer

There are several state colleges to choose from in Illinois. However, if I take a major level course like History of Latin America at Eastern Illinois University, that credit will not transfer to Western, Southern or any other state college. Most, not all Gen. Ed. courses will transfer though. Even Junior Colleges have credit transfer problems. I can’t take many, if any, major level courses at a Junior College & expect those credits to transfer & count towards my major at a state college. Credit transfers would also allow students to take summer courses at university closer to home & transfer those credits to the university where they attend full-time.

There is no doubt that higher education needs to be reformed. Tuition & fees continue to increase at colleges which in turn increases the costs to the taxpayer & students. Reforms don’t have to all be painful or spartan but reform must happen.

 

Term Limits, General Assembly & Governor Power. Why?

Term limits are popular with people and there is no doubt about that. Many don’t like either the US Congress or our IL General Assembly as a whole which helps fuel support for term limits. While term limits on the surface are a good idea, underneath it all there remains problems that term limits cannot solve.

When someone gets elected to the IL General Assembly – or Congress for that matter – chances are they will be re-elected for years afterwards & will only find their way out of office by retirement or resignation due to corruption or being handed a cushy government agency job. Sure, there are instances where a seat changes hands due to redistricting as a whole, redistricting to create a split district politically or there is a wave of voter discontent as evidenced by the Tea Party movement in 2010.

I’m not sure when an elected official crosses the line to becoming entrenched in office. It would seem some would say 8 years. I don’t quite understand how one derives a useful political life is 8 years like some kind of Logan’s Run Carrousel scenario. But what happens at the end of those 8 years?

Changing the person in office doesn’t mean the voters will get somebody completely different politically – or even less “corrupt”. That is a major flaw in term limits. Plus, what stops a lame duck legislator(s) from voting for whatever they want in the last part of their outgoing, term limited time in office? A conscience? Doubtful. We’ve seen that lack of conscience during other lame duck sessions of the General Assembly.

Besides, elections are the ultimate term limit decider…but more on that a little later.

Redistricting/restructuring the General Assembly is also being proposed. The current idea is to lower the number of State Senators & increase the number of State Representatives. Downstate will be the loser in this proposal. My State Senate district, the 54th, already stretches from Madison County down to Washington County over to Effingham then south to Marion County. The 55th Senate District already stretches from Coles County all the way down to White County. How will expanding the size of the State Senate districts make those districts more representative of the people or make those holding that office more accountable? It won’t on both accounts.

The other provision suggested to reform the General Assembly by changing the vote from 3/5ths to 2/3rds to override a Governor’s veto. I have mixed feelings on this issue. On one side, it allows the Governor to be a true check on the Illinois legislature & the veto override was once set at 2/3rds during at least one previous incarnation of the Illinois Constitution. At the same time, Illinois has a history in populism (Jacksonian populism/democracy, Grangers movement, etc) that has traditionally  kept the General Assembly as one of the strongest branches of the Illinois government & those past incarnations of the Illinois Constitution are proof. A move back to a 2/3rds required vote to override a veto would weaken the General Assembly against a Governor who would use the veto power often. Additionally, not every measure passed by the General Assembly is veto proof – even in the Democrat super-majority in the General Assembly now so the chances of a veto being overridden would diminish.

Ultimately, the power to change the Illinois government doesn’t lie with the legislature, the judiciary or the executive branch. It doesn’t even lie with a referendum to change the Illinois Constitution.  It certainly doesn’t lie with any candidate or non-candidate promising to be a reformer like some conservative political prophet. The power to change Illinois government lies within one office & one office only – the Precinct Committeeman.

The gripes about term limits are really rooted at angst against political power & who possess that political power. We falsely lay that power on elected officials (leadership positions aside for the sake of this argument). The reason why the higher ups, the “establishment”, the “insiders”, whatever you want to call them, have the power is because we allow them to have it – because we choose to leave our precincts empty.

I’m sure you are like me & have received emails from candidates asking your help to sign and/or get signatures for their petitions so they can appear on the ballot this upcoming Primary election. Have you received the same email from your party “leadership” about finding people to run for Precinct Committeeman? How about an email reminding you to pick up your petition & get it signed to re-run as a Precinct Committeeman? No? Me either. Perhaps that’s because these same people know that the actual power to change anything lies within the Precinct Committeemen.

The ELECTED (not appointed) Precinct Committeeman gets to vote on who the Chairman of the county party will be for the next 2 years. Why is that important? Because having the right (figuratively & literally) Chairman can help decide the direction of the county & state parties & office holders. As an example, imagine if there were a majority of conservative Chairmen in the room when they decided to pick Rodney Davis over Erika Harold to replace US Rep. Tim Johnson on the ballot. Do you think outcome of that pow-wow would have been the same?

In addition, the Precinct Committeeman gets to vote on who represents their Congressional district on the State Central Committee, who as we should know by now, selects the next Chairman of the state party – who then in turn sets the direction of the state party.

Lastly, but certainly not least important, the Precinct Committeemen are the ones who help get candidates elected (or defeated) by leading the door-to-door, get-out-the-vote campaigns. They also do what they can to increase voter-turnout of their candidate of choice to get that person re-elected or get somebody defeated in the next election. Getting people to vote. Now there’s your term limits.

If you want term limits by throwing out the bad politicians, if you want to change your party from the ground up & if you want to really change Illinois government to being more responsive & more responsible then recruit others and run yourself as to make sure there are conservative Precinct Committeemen on the ballot this spring. Outside of Cook County, it takes just 10 signatures of registered party voters in your precinct to get on the ballot to be a Precinct Committeeman. Just 10 voters’ signatures to be elected to the single most powerful office in Illinois. 10 signatures to begin the road of real change in Illinois government.

 

Winners & Losers with Illinois Gay Marriage Passage

Every debate has a winner & a loser. One side prevails as another does not. This concept also applies to the gay marriage bill in front of the Illinois General Assembly.  Greg Hinz at Crain’s Chicago Business points out that lawmakers are just a few votes shy of passage of gay marriage in the Illinois House. Hinz puts the number between 55 -57 votes in favor, just short of the 60 needed. A few months ago, I was informed that the Illinois House was at least 12 votes short of passage – so the opposition in the Illinois House is starting to falter. So who will be a winner & who will be a loser if gay marriage passes the Illinois House & is eventually passed on to Gov. Quinn to sign?

Winner – Dan Rutherford – Rutherford, if you recall, was the lone Republican Illinois Senator to vote in favor of civil unions during the lame duck session of the General Assembly in 2010 before taking office as Illinois Treasurer. If gay marriage is approved, then Rutherford is provided some cover for his vote & any opposition he faces in the primary will have lost a campaign issue against Rutherford.

Loser – Bruce Rauner – As a social liberal, Rauner was counting on pulling in the moderate & liberal votes in the Republican Primary for Governor. If gay marriage passes, then that issue is largely off the table which allows any of Rauner’s opponents to focus on his other social liberal stances be it gun control or Rauner’s pro-choice beliefs – both important issues to Republican Primary voters who generally trend conservative.

Winner – Pat Brady – The Captain always goes down with the ship. Brady put his reputation on the line by openly advocating for gay marriage passage earning him the ire of conservatives, including myself. Brady’s support of gay marriage, which violates the Illinois Republican Party platform, has paved the way for his resignation sometime in the future but Brady will find comfort with the other social liberal Republicans in the Loop & Beltway circles. Even after Brady decides to resign, I’m not sure we have heard the last of him (see Andy McKenna).

Winner – Gov. Pat Quinn – As a very unpopular incumbent Governor, Pat Quinn needs all the “good” press he can get going into what seems to be a very difficult potential Democrat Primary. Quinn will be able to show his liberal colors & appease some, but definitely not all, his critics on social issues. Quinn’s victory lap will be short lived however as SB1 will once again pit Quinn against the unions he double –crossed after he was reelected.

Loser – Lisa Madigan – The current Illinois Attorney General, wannabe Democrat Governor candidate, will have lost a campaign issue just as Bruce Rauner will have lost one against his nearest opponent. Quinn will be able to say that he actually did something about gay marriage whereas Lisa Madigan merely sat on the sidelines cheering him on. She also loses a campaign issue in the General Election if Rutherford (assuming it’s basically a Rutherford/Rauner two way battle) wins the Republican Primary. But she still carries the Madigan last name…which is & always shall be a loser in my book.

Winner – Trial Lawyers – Once again, trial lawyers win. How? Because of all the discrimination lawsuits that will follow after passage of gay marriage in Illinois. Florists, wedding reception halls & other businesses have been sued by gay “couples” because those businesses refused to offer their services to them as we have seen in other states that passed gay marriage. It’s only a matter of time before a lawsuit against churches denying services to gay “couples” also happens, despite assurances by gay marriage supporters/sponsors in the General Assembly that houses of worship are exempt from the gay marriage law.

Loser – Illinois residents – Once again, the Democrats in the General Assembly have decided to focus on the real issues like medicinal marijuana & gay marriage versus handling the soft, unimportant issues like pension reform, budget deficits, faltering state credit ratings, high unemployment, anti-business regulations/policies & taxes. Priorities, priorities.

Loser – Conservatism in Illinois – Conservatives will have failed to pressure a handful of Republicans actually left in office in the Illinois House from breaking the ranks & joining the Democrats in voting for gay marriage. Conservatives were thwarted from getting the required votes to oust Pat Brady as Illinois Republican Party Chair – surprisingly with help from other conservatives either tacitly or openly. Even medicinal marijuana passed with barely a whimper. Not only does the Illinois Republican Party need to do some soul searching over this summer but conservatives must also do the same.

Winner – Senator Mark Kirk – Kirk has successfully thrown away any semblance of conservatism that he barely showed when he ran in 2010. Putting Mark Kirk’s recent anti-gun, pro-immigration reform posturing aside, Kirk has openly supported Pat Brady & passage of gay marriage in Illinois. Kirk has shown himself, as the highest office holding Republican in Illinois, to be a force within the Illinois Republican Party. Kirk will enjoy many of the same campaign benefits in 2016 that Rutherford will enjoy in 2014.

Push – State Sen. Jason Barrickman & other Republican pro-gay marriage votes – I’m calling it push for right now for Barrickman, et. al. Time will only tell if there will be backlash against the Republicans that vote or voted for gay marriage. Barrickman is already doing damage control & others will be watching closely for any fallout from his decision. Some Republicans that vote for gay marriage might even find themselves with primary challengers. 2014 is a long time way still but in the world of politics 2014 might as well be tomorrow.

Losers – Dillard, Brady & Co. – Running to the right of anyone in the Republican Primary for Governor to win conservatives will be that much harder. Gay marriage isn’t like the abortion issue where laws can be passed to rollback or restrict abortions. Once gay marriage is passed, the other candidates that might jump in can certain say they are opposed to gay marriage but any hopes of overturning it or restricting will be solely in the wheelhouse of the Illinois Supreme Court – which leans liberal. Anti-gay marriage will be a rallying cry, but it’ll be as effective as Bruce Rauner calling for Illinois to be Right to Work state.

Winner – The Slippery Slope – Pandora’s Box will be opened if you will. It is only a matter of time before polygamy is approved, which support for such action has already begun. It’s also only a matter of time before religious organizations lose their non-profit, tax-exempt status because they will be openly “discriminating” against gay “couples” by refusing to engage in marrying gay “couples”. In a state as broke financially as Illinois, removing the tax-exempt status would fill the Illinois coffers, not unlike how Henry VIII figured out when he broke from the Catholic Church & founded the Church of England.

Conservatives Back Bruce Rauner? Do-what?!

I’m not sure how any self-respecting conservative can support Bruce Rauner to win the Republican nomination for Illinois Governor.

Given Rauner’s past, as detailed in Sam Pierce’s article at Illinois Review where Pierce outlines Bruce Rauner and/or his wife’s contributions to Democrats & pro-choice PACs before seeing the light & becoming Republican, it’s already a stretch as to why any Republican would back Rauner. But then I remember this is the Illinois Republican Party we are talking about here.

With same sex-marriage being debated in the Illinois General Assembly & being heard in front of the US Supreme Court AND being a supposed candidate for office, you would think Bruce Rauner would have an opinion on the subject. But here, instead of taking a stand, he punts while on WLS:

Cohn: This has been an important topic that’s being discussed all around the country right now – gay marriage. Where do you stand on gay marriage?

Rauner: Gay marriage is, it’s an important issue. I think it’s best decided by the voters. Frankly either voter referendum or whatever format voters think makes sense. I think the voters should decide that issue.

Cohn: You don’t have a personal feeling about gay marriage?

Rauner: I really don’t. I think it’s best done by the voters. By society should accept it when the time is right for them. […]

I believe the voters should decide on gay marriage. That’s not lacking leadership, that’s saying voters decide. If, for example, the legislature passes gay marriage, I’m not gonna fight to reverse it. If they don’t pass it, I’m not gonna advocate for it. At the right time, the voters will make their views known. I think that’s a good outcome.

Rich Miller at Capitolfax.com, where the above insert was taken from, correctly points out a huge error in Rauner’s thinking:

* This whole idea that gay marriage ought to be decided via referendum, when Illinois has no binding referendum provisions, is basically just a dodge.

In addition to everything so far, & given Rauner’s extensive history with Mayor Rahm – they’re BFFs if you didn’t already know – how can any conservative trust or support Rauner?

That was a question on my mind since digging a little into who Bruce Rauner is when I first heard his name tossed around. Honestly, I hadn’t heard of him before this year. After what I have seen, I’m left scratching my head about a few things.

Speaking locally, I can’t fathom why a businessman from a local staunch pro-life, pro-traditional marriage conservative Republican family like Jim Schultz would back Rauner, let alone be on Rauner’s exploratory committee.

Speaking personally, I can’t fathom why For the Good of Illinois employees & supporters  – stalwart conservatives – would be ushering Bruce Rauner around at our Lincoln Day Dinner. Whether these ushers were doing so by order or by their own free will, only they know. Let me tell you from experience when I met him, Rauner knows he’s above you on the socio-economic scale & he makes you feel it.

I’m not sure why the Illinois Republican Party would think someone with liberal leanings/friends/donations would make the idea GOP Governor candidate?

I’m not sure why conservatives or the Illinois Republican Party thinks Illinois needs its own version of Mayor Bloomberg in our Governor’s mansion.

Furthermore, I’m not sure why the Illinois Republican Party would think that a very rich guy would appeal to voters because as we all know, that worked out so well for Romney in this state.

Of course those last three were sarcasm.

The whole Bruce Rauner candidacy support structure smells like the mechanization from The Machine that foisted Sen. Mark Kirk upon us.

In my last post, I discussed how I believe Illinois is a petri dish, or a test case, for the liberalization of the Republican Party as a whole. The liberal Bruce Rauner’s ascendancy in the eyes of some of Illinois’ largest Republican power brokers is just more evidence of conservatives being shunned like some kind of bastard child in favor of liberalizing the Illinois GOP.

Given  everything I have detailed above & previously, I cannot for the life of me understand how any conservative could back Bruce Rauner or why any Republican should either for that matter. And of course, if Bruce Rauner wins the nomination & loses in the general election, it will be the fault of us backwards, stubborn conservatives who didn’t support Rauner enough. C’est la vie.

For further reading on the subject of Bruce Rauner, check out William Kelly’s post about Rauner’s billionaire collection.

The Illinois Petri Dish

Shortly after the Romney/Ryan defeat in November, Republicans & pundits started the public & private autopsy of what went wrong. The insider conclusion? Republicans aren’t liberal enough.

Then Karl Rove started his anti-conservative PAC to make sure conservatives don’t find their way onto the ballot, especially in high-profile races.

To complicate matters, the Supreme Court is debating whether the Defense of Marriage Act is Constitutional.

Adding fuel to that fire is Sen. Mark Kirk stating he supports gay marriage. This is the same Mark Kirk that has been campaigning behind the scenes to help keep Pat Brady’s job as IL Republican Party Chair.

Is the Republican party in the fits of an intraparty civil war? The quick answer is no. The long answer is below.

I don’t believe there is a civil war within the Republican Party…yet. It’s coming though. We are seeing the first signs of a rift within the party & I believe the first sign of this rift is the gay marriage issue.

The national Republican Party I believe wants to go a different direction than the rank & file Republicans, especially conservative Republicans. I believe that Illinois is the petri dish for the test case of a “new” Republican Party. The RNC will then use the results of their test case here in Illinois, learn from the mistakes, adjust & then import the program for liberalizing the Republican Party into the other states. What does mean for deep red states? It means the RNC will get to you eventually.

The evidence is right in front of us. Who sits is a committeeman on the RNC? Illinois Republican Chair Pat Brady – who has opening advocated for gay marriage.

We then filter down further & see the highest Republican elected official in Illinois – Mark Kirk – also support gay marriage. The case for liberalizing the Republican Party in Illinois gets bigger.

The final piece of the petri dish puzzle is our supposed “conservative” Illinois Republican Representatives in the US House – Shimkus, Davis, Schock & Kinzinger – staying absolutely silent on Pat Brady & now Mark Kirk. Where are these supposed champions of conservatism? Nowhere. When will they fight for the party as a whole? Probably never. So it’s up to us.

Conservatives in Illinois had better make their presence known & they had better be loud about it. Conservatives must confront their Republican office holders & press them on why they are not fighting against the liberalization of the Republican Party in Illinois, let alone nationally. Most importantly, conservatives had better make their voices heard by voting – especially in the primaries.

If conservatives don’t stand up and fight, then you will see a serious split in the Republican Party. I believe the state & national leaders of the Republican Party are playing with fire. In their eyes, they think they are appealing to more voters. In reality, they are alienating many within the Republican Party at the expense of political expediency.

What happens when Republican voters feel alienated? They don’t contribute to candidates or the party. They don’t show up to vote. They are more open to third parties.

When it’s all said & done, there is one thing you must keep in mind. Many of the pundits & consultants hail from the pre-Reagan Revolution days or the “compassionate conservatism” George W Bush days. To these insiders, Reagan represented a speed bump in the liberalization of the Republican Party. Why else are we to be reminded more & more these days that “Reagan is dead”? Why else would this Republican intelligentsia want to purge conservatives from policy making? If these same people think the Democratic Party has gone so far to the left & the “new” Republican Party will fill the void by disheartened Democratic Party voters, they are seriously mistaken.

It’s really is sad that we conservatives must waste so much time & energy fighting the liberal agenda within the Republican Party when that same effort could be used to defeat the far-left liberal agenda of the Democratic Party. We lose so many good conservatives because of this fight. They tire of the endless two-front battle. They tire of a seeming deaf leadership. They tire of living in a state that punishes success while rewarding failure. Who can blame them?

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Wrong Solution to a Growing Problem – Countywide School Sales Tax

Budgets are tight everywhere. Your family or yourself have tightened belts as gas prices continue to climb, grocery prices rise & the overall cost of living increases. While you and yours’ costs have gone up, income has stayed the same or hasn’t kept up with the increases. As a result, you trim a bit here, trim a bit there to make sure the money stretches out.

Government doesn’t work or operate in the same manner you or your family does, especially regarding their budgets – not that they shouldn’t try though. The costs of government are going up just like your costs of living have. The largest difference between government & you is where you have had to cut your household budget to keep up with incoming revenue; government for the most part has not done the same.

But then again, governments can always raise taxes for more revenues whereas you cannot. This is a huge problem…especially at the local level & this does not get enough attention.

School districts have been hit hard by the state of Illinois’ budget problems. Many school districts are facing deficits in their budgets because the state has not paid districts or has cut funding to districts outright. School districts have done some cuts but many of the cuts districts have made are merely surface cuts & have not fixed the problem at large.

However, further cuts that school districts have proposed fall along President Obama’s sequestration mantra of “make them feel the pain”.

School districts must get creative in their budgeting. School boards & the teacher unions toss around scary phrases like “increasing class size” to indicate that they will have to lay off teachers meaning a higher student to teacher ratio. This kind of talk gets parents riled up who then demand their school board to “do something” despite mixed studies about whether increasing class size effects education achievement.

School districts have enormous taxing power & receive money from a multitude of sources from federal grants, state funding, local property taxes, etc. Look at your property tax bill & see what the breakdown of what your property taxes go towards. Much of your property taxes I would bet go to education whether it’s your local school district or whether it’s your local colleges or universities. Think about all the ways you are taxed or provide money for schools. Federal taxes fund federal grants. State income tax. Property tax. Individual school “fees” for athletics, band, etc. Fundraisers and more.

The newest argument gaining momentum for revenues to fund school districts involves increasing a county’s sales tax to help offset the state’s cuts to public education. Even if this additional tax were to be put into place, what happens when the state pushes teacher pensions onto the local communities resulting in even further budgeting problems? The issues with a county sales tax increase don’t start or end there.

First, as a close friend of mine stated, “raising taxes is a fix for a symptom, not a fix the actual cause”.  Raising the sales tax doesn’t address the issue that many school district budgets are still bloated despite the cries & moans of school boards & the teacher unions about cuts. Ask yourself, how much money is eaten up by your district’s Superintendent & administration? How much money is spent on needless things like new basketball goals that light up when time hits zero on the scoreboard? In southern Illinois, two things reign supreme in school districts – administrators & sports. School boards are elected & many don’t want to make the tough decisions. Why not raise property taxes? Because that action is directly felt by the community at large & would be widely unpopular whereas a sales tax is felt indirectly.

Second, an increase in sales tax to our school districts, at least in my county, is a redistributive tax on my city. My city is at the crossroads of I57/70 & accounts for about 85% of the local sales tax generated. The notion behind this proposed sales tax increase is the school sales tax would be collected and distributed according to school population/size. In my community, my city would contribute the most by far to the sales tax pool yet only receive roughly 52% of the funds. The other 48% of the funds would be filtered to the area county school districts.

Third, sales tax revenue is not a revenue stream that is constant or that always increases. In fact, our city’s sales taxes are generally flat over this time last year & were actually down last year as a whole. School districts think that increasing the sales tax is the cash cow they have been waiting for but in reality, it won’t be & is only a temporary fix to a much larger problem.

There is some good news though. Many community leaders, local elected officials & business owners are opposed to increasing the sales tax & getting such an increased passed by public vote will be difficult if not impossible.

The time has come for school districts to consider consolidation of smaller districts. Neither the school districts nor the people that live within them can sustain the budgets to run these schools. Will our children’s education be hurt by consolidation? No, outside maybe a longer bus ride in the morning & afternoon. However, cuts should not all be focused on classrooms or activities. In our county, the county schools districts have 800 less students in them than 10 years ago yet our county school districts have the same amount, if not more administrators for those districts than 10 years ago. Big problem in my eyes.

Asking people to continue to fund an often bloated government whether local, state or federal is wrong. To fund that bloated government on the backs of the people working harder just to get by these days – directly or indirectly – is even more wrong. We cannot tax our way to prosperity. We cannot tax our way to balanced budgets. We cannot tax our way to fixing a broken system of public education funding.

65% in Illinois Are Angry at Federal Government’s Policies

from Rasmussen Reports

Sixty-five percent (65%) of Likely Voters in Illinois are at least somewhat angry at the current policies of the federal government, according to a new Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey.

That finding matches the level measured nationally, and includes 41% who are Very Angry at the government’s policies.

Just 32% of voters are not angry at the government’s policies.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of Illinois voters believe that neither party’s political leaders have a good understanding of what is needed today. Twenty-nine percent (29%) disagree with that assessment, while 17% are not sure.

While strong majorities of Republicans and voters not affiliated with either party are angry at the current policies of the government, over half of Democrats (54%) say they are not angry with the federal government.

The survey of 750 Likely Voters in Illinois was conducted on August 23, 2010 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/-4 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Sixty percent (60%) of all voters in the state believe most members of Congress don’t care what their constituents think. Twenty-one percent (21%) disagree and feel congressmen do care. Nineteen percent (19%) are not sure.

An overwhelming majority of GOP voters feel most members of Congress neglect their constituents, while Democrats are more evenly divided.

Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk remain in a near-tie in Illinois’ race for the U.S. Senate.

Republican Bill Brady continues to hold a modest lead over Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn in Illinois’ gubernatorial race.

FEC Report gives clues to November races (4-6)

4th Congressional District (-D- Luis Gutierrez)

The 4th district is one of the strangest drawn Congressional Districts in the country. Luis Gutierrez hasn’t had someone get over 16% against him since 1994. He has achieved over 75% in every election he has been involved in the 4th district since 1992. Luis Gutierrez has $522,399 of cash on hand. His challenger is Republican Israel Vasquez. Israel does not have any FEC information because he is self-funding his campaign and wont start fundraising till August. This is another district that it will be almost impossible for a conservative get elected just because of how it is drawn.

5th Congressional District (-D- Mike Quigley)

This is the former congressional district of ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich and current White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. This district has a long history of going Democratic. However, a republican did hold this seat back in the mid 90s for one term. Mike Quigley won the special election with 69% of the vote on April 6, 2009 to fill the rest of Rahm Emanuel’s term after he resigned to work in the White House. Quigley is being challenged by David Ratowitz a retired Capitan in the U.S. Army. This district leans heavy to the left so a win here will not be easy. Quigley holds a big cash advantage as well. Quigley has $642,936 to Ratowitz’s $4,597.

6th Congressional District (-R- Peter Roskam)

Here is the first Republican held seat in Illinois. This seat has been in Republican control since 1972. Roskam has a strong Pro-Gun voting record. Roskam is Pro-Life. He is against amnesty for illigals. He also opposed the moving of terrorists to Thompson Prison in Illinois. Roskam won reelection in 2008 by 16%. This year he is up against Democrat Benjamin Lowe. Roskam leads the cash race $952,793 to Lowe’s $2,336. Roskam does a great job voting the conservative way. We need to retain him!

We have only just begun!

I just got back from Dixon, IL hometown of President Ronald Reagan! I walked in the yearly Petunia Fest parade. I handed out a bunch of Bill Brady literature as well as Illinois Conservative literature and stickers. We got a great reception from the people with both. I want to thank Tom Demmer he is doing a great job up here in Northwest IL working for the Brady reno seo Campaign.

If we want the Illinois Conservatives to have a big influence this fall we are going to have to run a campaign throughout the state. Today was great but it was just a start… We have only just begun!

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