Today ends my six years in office as State Representative of the 42nd District located in the heart of DuPage County. It has been an honor to serve you and advocate for not only the taxpayers in the suburbs but for the rest of the constituents in the great State of Illinois.
Today and over the next five days, a new Illinois legislature will be seated and a new administration will take over the State of Illinois. I wish them well.
This is my final email as a state representative.
After six years, I leave having taken on our toughest financial problems – state pensions, local pensions, unbalanced budgets, local debt, transparency, and accountability. There have been only minor successes and little real results other than to have raised awareness about how the political class that has been running the state for decades have failed so many of us. Illinois has some of the highest paid legislators in the nation. The most powerful political machine in the nation. Where has it gotten us?
Six years ago our official state pension debt was about $100 billion, now officially it stands at nearly $134 billion – or a 33 percent increase. (Moody’s pegs the pension debt at $234 billion.)
Illinois has the slowest income growth in the mid-West and while public sector salaries have climbed since the 2008 recession, the median household income in Illinois has actually fallen.
In six years, my property taxes have increased over 13 percent. I bet for most of you that is also true, if not even higher. Property taxes have forced seniors out of their homes, stressed family budgets, and destroyed people’s wealth as many sell their homes for less than they bought them for because of the high taxes. For certain, property taxes helped create the flight of businesses and residents out of the state.
In the last 6 years, roughly 600,000 people have left Illinois. In the last five years the net outmigration is 157,000 people. Bye, Bye the entire population of Rockford or Naperville. We are one of only three states to lose population every year for the last 5 years. Last year we lost a record 45,116 residents according to US Census data, even as every one of our neighboring states gained population. When I took office we were the 5th most populous state. Now we are 6th, behind Pennsylvania.
This is the biggest indictment that the economic policies in Illinois are not working to grow our state naturally. This story does not end well for taxpayers that are on the hook for $50,800 in state debt and unfunded liabilities according to Truth in Accounting.
Illinois government is one bloated mess. Every year for the last 18 years your state government has spent more than we have taken in. Six year ago our unpaid bill backlog stood at $9 billion. The 2011 tax increase put in place to pay off bills did nothing long term to help. Now after borrowing $6 billion, 18 months ago to pay off the mountain of bills we had, our unpaid backlog of bills is still over $7 billion – so all we did was increase our debt load. Illinois must reform its spending habits.
In the six years I have been here, I never voted for a budget. Every single budget was out of balance, did not set priorities in line with what we could afford, did not reform spending, and were nothing more than documents prepared by insiders in both parties with little to no input by rank and file members.
This year, after spending a record amount of money last year, the budget was unbalanced by over $1.2 billion, and the new legislature must wrestle with the following problems:
1. The pension systems are asking for an increase of $845 million. You are going to have to sell a lot of pot and lottery tickets to pay for that. Meanwhile, the first reform that must happen is to move new hires to a 401k-style retirement plan like the private sector taxpayers have. I wrote a bill to do so 4 years ago and it never got a full hearing and vote. We have such a plan that has been successful for over 20 years – so it is constitutional and solvent.
2. The education funding formula demands another $350 million. This figure if approved will have added over $1 billion more to general state aid in three years and additional hefty spending at the local level where most, if not all, will have also seen record spending from property taxes and debt. Meanwhile less than 40 percent of students statewide meet or exceed grade level expectation in English or Math. We have school districts where less than 5% of the children read or do math at grade level and yet those same school districts claim high school graduation rates of over 70%. On national exams, our NAEP scores have been flat for years and are not significantly different than the national average. Our cost per student however is in the top 25%. We are failing our children and families.
3. Higher education is asking for over 16% increases in state funding. That’s $314 million more. At the same time many of our best students are rejected from our top public university to make room for foreign students.
4. Are they really going to sell the Thompson Center this year and count it as revenue for the 4th year in a row? Including it as revenue this year would mean that over the last 4 years, this fake revenue stream would be responsible for $1.2 billion of overspending if they once again don’t sell it.
5. People are clamoring for a capital bill, but paying for the debt service will be costly. Six years ago Illinois had the worst credit rating of any other state. That is still true today. And we are an extreme outlier. Servicing our debt is two times more expensive that the next worst state. Our nearly junk credit rate affects local governments too that get assessed the “Illinois Penalty” when they go out to borrow even if they have otherwise stellar credit ratings. Giving Illinois the highest gas tax in the nation with a 20-30 cent per gallon tax increase will not solve the problem. We just had a 32% permanent income tax increase. For my district in the suburbs where the toll roads are mostly located, we are already double taxed to get around our area.
The Illinois economy is chugging along and the most recent revenue reports from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability show that both income and sales tax revenue are up over the last six months compared to last year by about $1.5 billion. Good news. It is because of the federal action on tax cuts and regulatory reform. It is because we are an energy producer. It is not because state and local government has made reforms. Our state is the biggest player in the mid-West. Our state GDP is the 5th highest in the nation – we should be killing it. And the growth we have had shows that if we attracted even more business, the natural growth in revenue would be the biggest help to solving our fiscal problems. Any tax increase at this point will stall growth. Additionally, over the last 12 months growth in government jobs lead every other category of jobs. Illinois has more government jobs than manufacturing just to give you a comparison – that wasn’t always the case.
The last thing I want to address is the rampant corruption that goes on in this state. Here is just a sampling of the latest problems:
The indictment and arrest of Madigan’s fellow property tax attorney and Democratic scion Alderman Ed Burke. He was arrested on allegations of extortion. Read more about that here. His power is legendary and yet there has been no statement from Democrat boss Madigan, the Dem Party Executive Director Christian Mitchell, or any of the Democratic rank and file legislators. Close ranks and everyone keep your mouth shut is the standard procedure. Republicans would have been forced to resign by now and statements put out all around. Here’s hoping Burke is just the first to fall.
The JB Pritzker tax fraud. He knowingly scammed on his property taxes. It tells you all you need to know about his character. The wealthiest individual elected to office in the nation – a multi-billionaire – cheated taxpayers. No ordinary Illinoisan does that. They don’t even think of such a scam. And they are worried what would happen if they got caught. Justice has not been served.
As a percent of home value Illinois is number two for the highest property taxes in the nation. Chicagoans, though, have much less effective here property taxes, than most of the rest of the state. Read Tax Facts here for more details. Governor-elect Pritzker already under pays compared to other Illinois homeowners. Low income Park Forest has the highest effective tax rate. Homeowners there pay 6.89% effective tax rates – a $250,000 home pays over $17,237 in property taxes. Pritzker, and all Chicagoans pay some of the lowest rates only 1.61%, much lower than homeowners in Lake County where Zion pays 4.98%, and those in East St. Louis pay 5.37%.
The fact that a Cook County Inspector General report states his dismantling of the toilets in his second mansion was fraud and still his fellow Democrat States Attorney has not prosecuted him is shameful.
State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit issues a death threat on the House floor to Republican Peter Breen and the Democrats say nothing. Read here. I was the only one to come to my colleague’s defense, in the moment.
Alderman Ricardo Munoz arrested for domestic violence this week. Haven’t heard the outrage from all those Democratic women, especially, standing up for women rights. Read here.
And then, of course, the David Krupa story. The Madigan Democrat machine trying to force a 19-year old off the ballot in a race against Madigan’s top General, Marty Quinn, who protected his brother Kevin in a sexual harassment case. That story went national and over 2600 residents who signed false affidavits should be prosecuted for voter fraud. Read more here.
I didn’t come to Springfield to entertain fantasies, but to address political and economic realities.
Illinois is insolvent. We should be the economic powerhouse of the Midwest, but we are losing to our slimmer, sexier sister Indiana – to Iowa – to every neighboring state.
To the people who have decided to locate businesses here, raise families here, build your lives here:
YOU are the people who have built Illinois. It is your blood, sweat and tears that have powered this state. The people in Springfield have no stake in that. They just siphon off of that.
In order to turn that around you must demand accountability from your government. It is your money, your homes, your businesses and your futures at stake.
You are in charge of this state. It may not seem like it with all the special interest, billionaires and power-brokers at the helm, but it is you who must step up and take charge of this state.
Until you do, there cannot be real change in Illinois.
God Bless the People of Illinois.