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Is it a “fair tax” or a “blank check?” Those will be two of the opposing messages Illinois voters will hear between now and November over the governor’s proposal to flip the state from a flat income tax rate to a graduated one.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has already poured $5 million of his own money into a political action committee that will be advocating in favor of changing the state constitution to replace the flat income tax rate with a graduated income tax rate.

The  presidential election will be the marquee race on the ballot this November but in Illinois the most expensive and noisy campaign likely will center on the battle to overhaul the state income tax and require the rich to pay more every year.

By this fall, following what promises to be months of fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, deciding whether to change the Illinois Constitution to replace the current flat-rate income tax with a graduated levy might not seem like the highest priority.

One business group on Thursday even tried to use the pandemic as a reason to pull the measure from the ballot. Whether that effort proves successful or not remains to be seen but in the meantime the issue is expected to result in relentless TV ads, political spin and distortions that hit all of the incendiary themes that have dominated political discourse for years — greed, corruption and incompetence; taxes driving businesses and residents out of the state; the rich not paying their fair share.

The stakes are high.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who stressed the need for the amendment during both his budget and State of the State addresses, has put a $5 million down payment of his own money into a political action committee promoting it. Pritzker is betting the future of his first-term agenda and possible re-election on passage of the amendment, which he predicts will generate an additional $3.4 billion to $3.6 billion a year in revenue while lowering or maintaining the tax burden for 97 percent of Illinois residents.

Read more from the Better Government Association here.

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We have several concerns with the referendum that the Barrington School Board chose to place on the March 17 ballot, but for the sake of time, we’ll forego listing them all and get down to our primary objection, which happens to be our most timely one.

A few short months ago, District 220 issued the following press release:

“Barrington 220 is proud to announce it has been named one of the 2019 Top Workplaces in the Chicago area by the Chicago Tribune. The list is based solely on employee feedback gathered through a third-party survey administered by research partner, Energage, LLC. The anonymous survey measures several aspects of workplace culture, including alignment, execution, and connection. Click here to see the full list.”

Dr. Brian Harris, Superintendent of Schools, wrote the following of 220’s top workplace distinction:

“I am very proud of our staff for making Barrington 220 a great place to work. Their dedication and passion are reflected each day in the outstanding education we provide to our students.”

In fact, District 220 is the only school district listed on the Chicago Tribune’s list of Top 150 Workplaces in the Chicago area. We think that’s admirable, but the reality sets in all too quickly for parents, students, teachers, staff and, above all, taxpayers when considering another list.

In the most recent ranking of best high schools in Illinois by U.S. News and World Report, Barrington High School ranked 35th.

Those high schools ahead of Barrington in the Chicago area were: Adlai E Stevenson HS (6), Libertyville HS (10), Hinsdale Central HS (12), John Hersey HS (13), Deerfield HS (14), New Trier Township HS Winnetka 15), Glenbrook North HS (16), Lincoln Park HS (17), Prospect HS (18), Neuqua Valley HS (19), Buffalo Grove HS (20), Glenbard West HS (21), William Fremd HS (22), Vernon Hills HS (23), Glenbrook South HS (24), Lake Forest HS (25), Highland Park HS (26), Evanston Township HS (27), Westinghouse HS (28), Metea Valley HS (29), York Community HS (30), Naperville Central HS (31), Naperville North HS (32) and St. Charles North HS (34).

When considering the two lists we’ve shared, we must ask why District 220’s board and, more specifically, Dr. Brian Harris, can be so pleased with Barrington’s lackluster rank among other high schools.

There was a time when New Trier and Barrington High Schools were the gold standards to be considered when families were relocating to the Chicago area. As one can see, New Trier is still well respected, and we challenge our Board of Education to commit to trying to improve the Barrington High School that we once enjoyed and was so widely envied.

Passing the proposed referendum will not accomplish this. Perhaps when the Board begins such initiatives, we’ll look forward to endorsing them.

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Cook County Democratic State’s Attorney candidates, from left, Bill Conway, Bob Fioretti, Donna More and incumbent Kim Foxx meet with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in early February. (Rich Hein/Sun-Times)

On March 17, Democratic primary voters in Illinois can choose between Kim Foxx, Bill Conway, Donna More and Bob Fioretti for Cook County State’s Attorney. The winner will be the Democratic Party’s nominee for the general election Nov. 3.

The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues. Here are their responses:

The civil division of the U.S. attorney’s office collects judgments that return to taxpayers three times more money than the budget of the office. The Cook County state’s attorney’s civil division recovers far less money. Why is that? What would you do about it?

Bill Conway: In her first year alone, our current State’s Attorney approved nearly $80 million in property tax appeals, millions of which went to clients of her donors and allies. That money doesn’t just come out of nowhere — it’s drained from local governments. When she approved nearly $2 million in refunds to Ed Burke’s client, more than half came out of the budget for Barrington schools. I am open to evaluating the finances of our civil division, but first we need to stop funneling taxpayer dollars to the politically connected.

Read the entire Chicago Sun-Times question and answer session here.

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Pritzker’s plan would replace Illinois’ flat tax with a graduated income tax projected to increase revenue by $3.6 billion a year, chiefly by hiking tax rates on the top 3% of all earners.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s speech Wednesday was billed as his annual budget address. But it was much more than that.

The budget part of the speech held few surprises and was far less ambitious than last year’s agenda. After a first year in which Pritzker passed gambling and cannabis legislation and a $45 billion infrastructure plan, the governor is taking a breather this year, relatively speaking.

The key part of Pritzker’s address was the governor’s pitch for a constitutional amendment that would enable him to change the state’s tax structure and make wealthy people pay more.

“This budget is a bridge to the future,” Pritzker said. And from there, he went on to lay out the benefits, as he sees them, from the graduated income tax.

Read more of Friday’s Tribune op-ed here if you missed it.

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Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivered a state budget address Wednesday acknowledging a “challenging” picture of Illinois’ finances and offering improved funding for government services if voters adopt his graduated income-tax plan.

Pritzker’s $42 billion budget proposal would provide $1.4 billion in additional funding for schools and public safety if voters in November pass the graduated-rate proposal, which would replace the state’s constitutionally mandated flat income tax.

“As important as these investments are, we cannot responsibly spend for these priorities until we know with certainty what the state’s revenue picture will be,” Pritzker said.

The proposed constitutional amendment, Pritzker’s signature initiative, would raise an estimated $3.6 billion on an annual basis. If it is adopted by voters, Pritzker has said rates previously passed by the legislature would boost the income-tax burden on the wealthiest 3 percent of taxpayers, with the other 97 percent paying at least the same or less.

Read more here.

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Tolls along the Longmeadow Parkway will become a reality after a Tuesday morning vote by the full Kane County Board. The vote ensures completion of the newest bridge to span the Fox River in the far northern portion of the county. The bridge will open in 2022.

Kane County has its first toll bridge, though a last-minute amendment could have added tolls to two other county bridge crossings.

Tolls along the Longmeadow Parkway will become a reality after a Tuesday morning vote by the full Kane County Board. The vote ensures completion of the newest bridge to span the Fox River in the far northern portion of the county. The bridge will open in 2022.

That last-minute amendment came from county board member Chris Kious, who said the Longmeadow Parkway tolls represent an unfair cost to his constituents. He pointed to the Stearns Road and Fabyan Parkway bridges as two county projects that allow toll-free crossings.

“By passing this (toll), you are subjecting the residents of the northernmost part of this county to pay an extra tax/user fee for the use of this Kane County bridge, which they have to use to access each side of their own villages,” Kious said. “No other roadway in the county has such a toll.”

Read more here.

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Appropriation Ordinance of the Village of Barrington Hills, Illinois Public Notice is hereby given that at 6:30 PM on Monday, February 24, 2020, a public hearing will be held by the President and Board of Trustees for the Village of Barrington Hills, Illinois (located in Cook, Kane, Lake and McHenry Counties) in the MacArthur Room at Barrington Hills Village Hall, 112 Algonquin Road, Barrington Hills, Illinois for the purpose of considering the proposed Appropriation Ordinance of the Village of Barrington Hills for the Fiscal Year Commencing January 1, 2020 and ending December 31, 2020.

All interested parties are invited to attend and will be given an opportunity to submit oral or written comments and suggestions at that time. Copies of the proposed Appropriation Ordinance are available for public inspection from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday at the Barrington Hills Village Hall, 112 Algonquin Road, Barrington Hills, Illinois. 

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