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Archive for the ‘Better Government Association’ Category

The contest ahead of a Nov. 3 vote on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution remains close. There are many interesting paths forward depending on the eventual outcome of this vote.

The fight over the graduated income tax—or the “Fair Tax,” as Gov. J.B. Pritzker branded it—has rightly been called a battle of the billionaires.

But it’s not just billionaires like Pritzker and his chief opponent on the tax, Citadel founder Ken Griffin, who have big stakes in the tax vote. All of us do.

The contest ahead of a Nov. 3 vote on Pritzker’s proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution remains close. A source familiar with daily polling data from the pro-amendment side told me the projected outcome is within the margin of error of the polls, too close to call.

Other facts support this. Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton recently warned about a possible 20 percent tax hike on everyone if the amendment fails. The threat would not be needed if the vote were secure.

Griffin late last month poured another $26.8 million into the campaign to stop the amendment. He wouldn’t have doubled his initial outlay if the outcome weren’t still in play.

It’s astounding the contest is close. The “fair tax” is a soak-the-rich appeal to raise taxes on the top 3 percent of earners. The remaining 97 percent are told their taxes will drop or stay the same. The 6 million taxpayers expecting lower or level tax bills should overwhelm the 190,000 in the top 3 percent who would face a tax hike.

Of course, politics is more than math. It requires understanding the hopes and fears of people, their sense of whom to trust and what to believe. Those concerns help explain why Pritzker’s proposal is not faring better.

Read more from the Better Government Association here.

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The presidential primary season left us with unsettling images of Americans standing in long lines to vote during a pandemic.  Last-minute staffing shortages and changes in voting locations led to crowds and confusion. Many voters had to choose between protecting their health and casting a ballot.

Let’s not repeat that scene in November. A new law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker provides a number of options for safe voting, by mail or in person. Local elections officials are working hard to implement measures to ensure that anyone who wants to vote can do so safely. 

Read more from the BGA here.

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Property owners may still get their August bills in the mail soon but the county won’t penalize late payments until after Oct. 1.

Employees at the Cook County Treasurer’s Office later this month are expected to begin preparations to mail out property tax bills for homes and businesses throughout the county.

Most years, taxpayers who missed the August deadline were penalized late fees. But this year taxpayers will have through Oct. 1 to pay the bills, a move made by the Cook County Board to ease the financial hardships many residents are facing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Although taxpayers will have two extra months to pay, the second installment due date remains Aug. 3. That means Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’ office still must print, prepare and mail bills on the same time schedule as every other year and her staff must do so amid a global pandemic.

“If I had a statute that said that I could do this, I would just tell everybody your bills are on the internet,” said Pappas, who suggested in April that the county board approve the financial assistance measure. “Unfortunately, the statute says I have to mail them out.”

Read more from the BGA here.

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To maximize participation, the state should mail a ballot to every registered voter. At the same time, it will be critical to preserve and protect in-person voting options.

This year’s primary election season will go down in history as the time American voters braved the threat of a deadly virus in order to cast their ballots. 

Amid rising calls for the public to stay home and avoid crowds to stem the coronavirus outbreak, some states chose to delay their elections while others forged ahead. Fear, anger and confusion reigned, regardless of the decision. With November fast approaching, this much is clear: We must rethink our democracy’s reliance on in-person Election Day voting.

Illinois dealt with widespread confusion on its March 17 Election Day, from poorly communicated last-minute polling location changes to a shortage of poll workers and cleaning supplies. These inefficiencies created long lines and big crowds, heightening the risks for poll workers and voters alike.

In a March 30 poll, roughly two in three U.S. adults said they were uncomfortable with the idea of voting in person. Yet voters in Wisconsin were forced to stand in line for hours to vote on April 7, after Gov. Tony Evers’ last-minute order to delay the election was blocked by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. At least seven cases of coronavirus in the state have now been linked to Election Day.

Wisconsin’s experience makes it clear that last-minute changes can disenfranchise voters and put the public at risk. It’s impossible to rule out a lingering COVID-19 or a resurgent second wave, so it’s urgent that we prepare for November’s consequential election like the emergency that it is. Illinois will need to do more to ensure the safety of in-person voting, to promote alternative voting options and to prepare election authorities for increased demand for such alternatives.

So what’s right for Illinois moving forward?

Read the Better Government Association article here.

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Federal and local officials have gotten thousands of fraud complaints. Stimulus checks will create another tidal wave of fraud, authorities warn.

As opportunists and scam artists look to make a quick buck off the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of Chicagoans are inundating City Hall with complaints: $80 toilet paper, $50 hand sanitizer bottles and $15 jugs of vinegar.

And while price gouging is the most prevalent complaint, experts are sounding the alarm on bogus cures, fake deals on protective gear and con artists posing as government officials.

“This is the worst I’ve seen, and I’ve been doing this for 32 years,” said Steve Bernas, CEO of Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois. “I’ve never seen a calamity that would affect so many.”

Through Monday, the Federal Trade Commission fielded more than 540 fraud complaints related to the outbreak in Illinois, according to the agency. The Illinois attorney general’s office has reported handling almost 1,300 price-gouging reports.

And in Chicago, city officials have issued two civil citations for price gouging out of more than 400 complaints filed in March through mid-April, according to a spokesman for the city’s business affairs department. In 2019, there were only two complaints of price gouging the entire year, he said.

Read more from the Better Government Association 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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Tucked on the outer edges of southern Cook County, suburban Park Forest was built to help answer a housing shortage in the 1940s as GIs flooded home from World War II. Before long, it became a model of suburban living, featuring enviable public schools and an attractive downtown shopping center anchored by a Marshall Field’s.

Today, the legacy department store is long gone. The high school, Rich East, is facing such low enrollment that it is being considered for closure. And, as of 2017, financially strapped homeowners were stuck with the second-highest property-tax rate in Cook County.

Among them is Ryan Dupée, who is being billed more than $3,800 in property taxes for a modest, ranch-style home he and his wife bought under foreclosure four years ago for just $25,000.

“It’s a shocker and it’s disappointing because your money could go to other things,” Dupée said, adding that while they aren’t paying a mortgage the property taxes are difficult for them to handle, especially since he’s between full-time jobs as a quality assurance auditor.

Read the full Better Government Association investigation here and realize what we already knew – it’s not just Barrington Hills. 

This story was co-published with Crain’s Chicago Business, as part of a Crain’s Forum project on affordable housing.

 

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