COLLINSVILLE – Inspired by a desire to take action against out of control taxation, a “Taxpayer Revolt Rally” is set to take place Oct. 24 in Collinsville, just ahead of an election that could be considered a referendum on the hot topic.
The event is being spearheaded by Annie Frey, a conservative issues-oriented radio talk show host who broadcasts 15 hours a week at FM NewsTalk 97.1. Frey said it was prompted by the extreme frustration expressed by her listeners who simultaneously feel hopeless and yet want to do "something."
"This really stemmed more out of what listeners are telling me - 'what can we do?'" Frey told the Record. "People feel hopeless... but they are eager to save their state."
Frey, a lifetime Madison County resident, said the event is designed to send a message to politicians considering a 1 percent statewide property tax hike, a vehicle mileage tax and a progressive income tax system.
She pointed out that the rally is bringing the concerns "of the people" to politicians rather than politicians going to voters for support.
"These people are motivated," Frey said.
On top of the 32 percent income tax hike imposed in 2017, tax increases potentially coming to Illinoisans include a vehicle mileage tax (VMT), as introduced in the Democratically controlled state Senate in 2016. The VMT would require all motorists to pay 1.5 cents per mile, either by installing a tracking device to monitor mileage or paying a flat annual rate of $450.
The progressive income tax, versus a flat income tax currently in place, is favored by Democrat gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker. While Pritzker has not outlined specifics as to whom would pay more, critics say that taxpayers earning as little as $17,300 would, according to a bill introduced in 2017 by a Democratic House member.
And finally, a 1 percent statewide residential property tax, on top of what Illinoisans already pay, is being suggested as the best solution for paying down the state's pension debt estimated at between $130 and $250 billion.
A public policy analyst at Illinois Policy Institute said that high taxes are the number one reason people give for wanting to leave the state.
“That’s no surprise given that Illinoisans pay among the highest state and local tax burdens in the nation. Just last year, the state permanently raised its income tax, forcing the typical family to shell out an extra $730 a year," said Adam Schuster, director of budget and tax research at the Illinois Policy Institute.
"Now politicians are campaigning on hiking taxes again.”
Schuster said state lawmakers should be reining in spending to levels that taxpayers can afford.
“Alleviating high taxes means reining in government spending to what taxpayers can afford,” he said. “A spending cap would tie growth in the state budget to the growth in the economy so taxpayers aren’t left picking up the tab.
"Meanwhile there is no fixing Illinois’ sky-high property taxes without first addressing pensions. The only way to protect both government worker pensions and taxpayers is by adopting a constitutional amendment that would allow changes to unearned retiree benefits.”
Ted Dabrowski, president of Wirepoints, a research institution that studies the economy and government of Illinois, has long advocated fiscal reform.
He said that Illinois residents have compromised "for way too long.”
“It’s why we pay the nation’s highest property taxes and some of the highest overall taxes in the U.S.," he said. "Illinois property taxes are now three times higher than what Indiana residents pay.”
He said Illinois residents should not deceive themselves that raising taxes again will solve their problems.
“Illinois lawmakers have run the state into the ground with that message,” he said. “It’s time for reforms, not more tax hikes.”
Dabrowski also recommended a constitutional amendment to gain control of pensions, an end to state-mandates that drive up taxes, massive consolidation of government units, salary freezes, head-count reductions and the option for cities to declare bankruptcy to name a few.
“That’s what Illinoisans’ need from their politicians,” he said, “reforms in how they spend taxpayer funds, not more rate hikes.”
Dabrowski co-authored with John Klingner a “History of Illinois Fiscal Crisis” report outlining how the state got itself in a hole. According to the report Illinois has not had a balanced budget since 2001 and even though the economy posted a healthy revenue growth of $13 billion in 2015, 57 percent more than in 2000, soaring pension costs ate up $6 billion of it and employee insurance costs more than $1 billion-----or 60 percent.
In addition the state’s credit rating has been repeatedly downgraded.
“Meanwhile spending for higher education, social services and K-12 education all suffered,” the report said.
Madison County GOP chairman Jeremy Plank, who is helping Frey coordinate the rally, indicated that Gov. Bruce Rauner as well as several state candidates supporting the effort will attend, including House candidates Avery Bourne, Dwight Kay, Mike Babcock, Doug Jameson and Jason Madlock, and Senate candidates Hal Patton and Jason Plummer.
Plank said that congressmen Mike Bost and John Shimkus also will be at the rally.
It will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 24 at American Legion Post 365 (1022 Vandalia St.) in Collinsville.