Schoolyard bullies want our tax money

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They want our tax money. Badly. As much as they possibly can get. Not just several of the supermajority Democrats in Springfield, but many local mayors and managers too.

It’s coming down to the wire, with three weeks left until the end of the spring session and a possible vote to turn that “temporary” 5 percent income tax permanent. By law, the income tax rate should drop to a 3.75 percent rate in January. We don’t often get to witness it, but the desperation was unveiled recently in a couple blatant examples of the fear, intimidation and outright extortion employed by some of the political schoolyard bullies who want our lunch money.

A few weeks ago, Gov. Pat Quinn coyly hinted local governments might be able to get a bigger share of our income taxes as part of a budget deal. Sure enough, the Will County Government League, the Illinois Municipal League and the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association all voted to support making the 5 percent rate permanent, so long as municipalities get to keep a larger cut.

The DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference voted 9 to 4 to join them until the Daily Herald obtained and published an email from the group’s executive director laying out the raw extortion at play. The email said the DuPage group’s lobbyist was reporting that: “Extension of the 5% income tax is almost certain to pass regardless of municipal support, opposition or neutrality. If municipalities and municipal groups uniformly oppose or fail to support the legislation, then it is also a near certainty that (the local share of income tax money) will be eliminated or severely cut.” But if the DuPage group and others supported the income tax increase, it would “generate ongoing political capital.”

Can you say, “pay to play?” Or is it play to get paid here? Help us pass the tax increase and we might give you some more of the money and other things you want.

Within 24 hours of the email going public, the DuPage municipal group reconvened, shifted gears and voted to stay neutral on the income tax question. That didn’t stop the intimidation tactics, though. That same day, state Sen. Donne Trotter, a Chicago Democrat, proposed that local governments lose their $1.4 billion share of our money. “We can’t afford to give allowances,” Trotter said. “This is the first confrontation we had to have.” Sounds like it was the first public confrontation, anyway.

Plenty of politicians in Springfield are former mayors or trustees, so this probably doesn’t sit well with them. It shouldn’t sit well with anyone. This is our money they’re using to threaten and intimidate. It’s almost as if we don’t exist.

Almost. We exist at least until the election is over. It appears House Speaker Michael Madigan continues to have trouble twisting tax-increase votes from election-fearing members in his chamber. And why should the Democrats approve a tax increase that could make it easier for Republican Bruce Rauner to govern should he defeat Quinn in November?

Will we see a budget Band-Aid to get us through the election and then yet another lame-duck session vote that increases our taxes so the politicians – state and local – keep their supply of our cash coming? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Isn’t that a classic cowardly schoolyard bully move?

Madeleine Doubek is chief operating officer of Reboot Illinois.

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