Chairman’s Corner: An Open Letter of Encouragement to Our New Governor
We are fortunate this week in Illinois to be celebrating another peaceful transition of democratic government.
I like Pat Quinn as a person and worked many years ago with him on my Senate proposal called the “Lincoln Amendment,” which required both chambers of the state legislature to call for a vote any specifically-worded proposal that had gained signed petition support from tens of thousands of voters. Under that legislation, state senators and representatives could vote “No,” but they could not block action by parliamentary maneuvering. It was marvelous to watch Pat Quinn’s skill with audiences and the press.
However, my wife and I worked hard to get Bruce Rauner elected and voted for him because Illinois desperately needs more than change; we need massive improvement. We need more than hope; we need results that strengthen families and employers in Illinois.
With his scholastic training at Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School, his proven experience in how finances work in real, competitive markets, and the incredible energy and persistence that he repeatedly demonstrated in a brutal and expensive statewide political campaign, we will not find a smarter, harder-working governor to lead Illinois in a better direction!
I hope that you are as encouraged as I am that Gov. Rauner’s highest priority is to “change the culture” of Springfield government. Hopefully, this means turning away from political self-indulgence and entitlement, and embarking on what will be a long, arduous journey of curbing the state’s monstrous spending appetite and a return to fiscal restraint and responsibility.
Two years ago in Kane County, we “changed the culture” with our property tax levy freeze, rededication to transparent management best practices, and an atmosphere where board meetings are now opportunities for respectful exchanges of various perspectives to benefit our mutual constituents.
Based on 20 years of service in the State Senate and struggles against misguided leaders like Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan, I would suggest three basic priorities, beyond changing the Springfield culture, that we are also trying to collectively implement in Kane County.
First, don’t buy what we can’t afford. Medicaid eligibility must be recalibrated and significantly reduced to a level where one out of every eight residents in Illinois do not have their health care paid for by their neighbors. It’s simply unaffordable.
Secondly, public pension benefits have been over-promised and under-deposited. Reasonable pension reforms include capping the unconscionable abuses to the system, phasing in an increase in the age of retirement from 55 to 62 years old (early retirement age under Social Security), and substantially moderating cost-of-living increases. Pensions should also be limited to never exceed what was paid while working.
Once the hemorrhaging spending is wrapped in a tourniquet, a third component — tax reform — is essential to unleash the full energy of the Illinois economic engine.
The penalty imposed on work and savings should be reduced, as is already in the planning. There’s no “good” tax, but it’s better to tax “consumption” in a sales tax with an exemption for lower-income earners’ spending to reduce the regressive nature of sales taxes. This way, consumers can choose whether they will buy an item that includes the sales-tax component of the total cost.
To make broadening the base of the sales tax — which the governor discussed during the campaign — more politically palatable, he should lower the rate. A good tax policy axiom is “broad base, low rate.”
And, no matter how much money someone has, they pay a sales tax when they spend it, reducing this terrible “class warfare” attack against the financially successful (who most of us do or should want to emulate.)
Finally, one of the best ways to help local governments restrain property taxes on their own initiative is to stop piling on unfunded mandates — new laws that sound good in Springfield but cost us a ton to implement locally. We will ask our area legislators to sponsor a “Repealer Bill” that will winnow unnecessary, expensive mandates from state government.
Next week I will share some of the specific initiatives proposed by Kane County Legislative Committee co-chairs Brian Pollock and Susan Starrett for advancing our county’s relationship with Springfield and Washington.
Kane County Board Chairman