Jeanne Ives is within striking distance of Gov. Rauner, and GOP voters are within striking distance of completely changing the political landscape in one election. Is there a turnout issue on the Republican side in the Illinois Primary? Is the progressive income tax on billionaires touted by the Democratic candidates for governor a Trojan Horse for a tax increase on all Illinoisans? Illinois Policy Institute's Marketing Manager, Eric Kohn joins Dan and Amy to discuss.
View full transcript
Proft: Good morning, Dan and Amy. Talk a little bit of state and local politics, you know we're five days away from a primary election. Jacobson: How are you feeling? You're really burning the candle at both ends. Are you getting enough sleep, Daniel? Proft: I am...NOT, Mom, but I'm okay. Jacobson: How are your eating habits? Proft: Thanks to you and your little gerbil... Jacobson: Gerbil food packs? Proft: Gerbil food packs here, I'm managing to survive. New survey out yesterday in the governor's race on the Republican side, this was a survey done by Jeanne Ives' campaign....42-35. Jacobson: WHAT? No way, really? Proft: Rauner's down to a 7-point lead. So this is getting really interesting here with five days to go. Here's something else that's interesting. (Jacobson: Yes?) The turnout so far, total ballots cast...or ballots requested and awaiting return...the Democrats...this is from a bit earlier this week but you get the gist of it...the Democrats, as compared to this time four years ago, so an off-Presidential year, the last governor's race...125% of ballots cast from four years ago. So, they're seeing an uptick in turnout, they're at 125% of ballots cast in 2014, as we stand here a couple of days ago. Republicans? FIFTY percent (50%) of ballots cast from four years ago. (Jacobson: WOW.) So, you've got a real turnout issue on the Republican side. Now that can be a lot of things...it can be in part people that are sometimes Republican, sometimes Democrat deciding to play in the Democrat primary because they think that's where more of the action is, that can certainly be part of it. Can be part of Republicans thinking "Oh, well Bruce Rauner is gonna win this race, so I'll go pick the least competitive Democrat," trying to play that game. Or, and it can also be "Because Rauner is so awful, and I'm so fatalistic about this state, 90% of people think it's on the wrong track, that I'm just not gonna participate after Rauner's betrayals, I'm just done with the Republican party." Jacobson: I don't like that option. Proft: Well, I'm just saying, I mean, it could be...it's a multitude of factors, I'm just saying, so now you know that you've got a competitive primary in the Republican side, that Jeanne Ives can win. On March 13th of 1996...this is not a perfect comparison, but it's about the best we have in terms of huge upsets...on March 13th of 1996, Al Salvi was down 14 points to Bob Kustra, and...for the Republican nomination for US Senate...and of course, those of you old enough to remember, Al Salvi ends up winning that race by a couple of points. Jacobson: I remember. Proft: Yeah, me too. So, so...when things break, they break. Jacobson: What about Glen (?), remember him? He was on the Democratic side, but nobody saw that coming. Proft: Right, another good example, right. When, and...when things break, they break, and there seems to be momentum with Ives and... Jacobson: How was her fly-around yesterday? Proft: and...so Conservatives...Conservatives have an opportunity....like they haven't had in my lifetime, and speaking as a Conservative. And this...there's rarely an opportunity that comes along where you can finally change the political landscape in one election, in one night. I mean, change it for generations...and that's the opportunity that's present in the Republican governor's race. That's there for the taking, if Conservatives come out and vote, and vote for a Conservative candidate to be the Republican nominee for governor. That really is, because if you don't, we're going to have Surrender Republicans, Fake Republicans as Tucker Carlson calls Rauner, against Chicago Democrats. It will be the same old same old, and this Going Out of Business Sale for the state of Illinois will continue in its orderly fashion. Ives, and the possibility of stoking the revolt that has been visited upon all of our Midwest neighbors, that is watershed, that is game-changer, so that's the opportunity on Tuesday, and it is right there for the taking. Not my opinion, the NUMBERS say so. And Jeanne Ives was on Chicago Tonight, flying solo, as we talked about yesterday... Jacobson: Oh yeah! Because Governor Rauner was a no-show. Proft: Mmhmm! Jacobson: I LOVE Gubernatorial debates when...when the "Gubernor" doesn't show up! Because it was really...but it gave her another opportunity just to get her policies across to the people...it was good. Proft: John Cass wrote about it, Amanda Vinicky who did the interview of Ives, said on air that Governor Rauner...MONTHS of not responding to TTW whether he'd participate, and then on the day of the interview, his staff told WTTW that he had another commitment. Jacobson: Well, wasn't he down South, vetoing the gun bill? Proft: *chuckles* Yeah. On...so John Cass writes...he compares Rauner to the knight in the Monty Python movie who "bravely ran ran away". He goes on to write, "Rauner is counting on JB's shrieks to cover the sounds of his own footsteps running away from Jeanne Ives. As I keep telling readers, what is not said, what constitutes the negative political space, is often the most important part of a political story, and at the debate that he ran away from, Rauner's silence was excruciatingly loud. He didn't want a confrontation with Ives on those notorious ads he's been running against her, ads alleging that Ives, the conservative Republican state rep from Wheaton, is a creature of Democrat boss Mike Madigan. It's a complete falsehood, of course, and rather ridiculous, but Rauner must think they're effective. But those lies will make it impossible for him to patch the Republican Party back together should he win the March 20 primary, which is still very much in doubt," writes Cass. And he goes on to detail "Brave Sir Robin Rauner's" various betrayals, which have put him in the position he is, which is starting to drop like a stone. Ives addressed the matter, in part, during her Chicago Tonight appearance. Ives (from Tape:) Rauner said nothing, either. He knew all about this too, he never called for the LIG... Proft (cutting the clip off): THAT's about the Inspector General and sexual harassment, but this is her responding to the commercials in question that John Cass writes... Jacobson: Oh, where she's "with Madigan"? Where they're long-lost lovers? Proft: Yes, right. Ives (from Tape): The truth is that I'm...I would be Mike Madigan's worst nightmare, because I actually have the courage to speak up for taxpayers and expose the games that are going on down there, and to put people in uncomfortable conversations where they actually have to explain their policy choices, and that's something that Governor Rauner failed to do. But make no doubt about it (sic), Governor Rauner has lied to everyone about everything over the last three years, and he's now lying about my record, because he can't talk about his, because he has no record to talk about. Proft: "Lying about me because he can't tell the truth about himself", and here's the Ives value proposition. Ives (from Tape): But you know what, when you put these people in a box....look, nobody, NONE of the Democrat governor candidates and not Bruce Rauner, is going to lead the taxpayer revolt that has to happen in this state. Proft: That's it. The taxpayer revolt. That's the choice, ultimately. Ives is a vessel for the revolt, and Rauner is a vessel for surrender. So, that's your choice. For more on this topic and this race, as well as others and the policy implications, we're pleased to be joined by Eric Kohn, who's the marketing manager at the Illinois Policy Institute. Eric, thanks for joining us, appreciate it. Kohn: Good morning, thanks for having me. Proft: Good morning. So, one of the things that was being bandied about, and was talked about again at last night's Democrat debate, Democrat Gubernatorial Debate, is the Graduated State Income Tax, this is something that the Democrats are intent to do, they are openly talking about it, advertising it, because they think it's politically popular and unfortunately, they're right. But this seems to be the case, that if Democrats remain in control of the General Assembly, and Pritzker or Kennedy or Bist is our next governor, that you're going to see a hard move to graduate the state income tax. Kohn: Absolutely. It has been something you've heard from many of the candidates running, that we need a progressive income tax, that billionaires need to pay their fair share. But, we should actually take a look at what is really being proposed. So, you need...first, you need two things to happen. We have to change the Illinois Constitution, first you'd have to get rid of the clause in the Constitution that mandates a flat income tax. And if they were successful in doing that, then it's the same state lawmakers who are responsible for the political culture in this state, who are responsible for the policy choices that have put the state in the situation it's in, to set the new graduated income tax rates. State Representative Robert Martwick was kind enough to file a bill with progressive tax rates, assuming that this constitutional change would happen, and we took a look at 'em. And what we found out is that anyone in Illinois who's making more than $17,300 a year is going to see their taxes go UP under this plan. And if you want to find out exactly how it would affect YOU, you can go to IllinoisPolicy.org and use our Tax Calculator and find out what it would mean for you if this progressive tax was to become a reality. Jacobson: Well, do you...I mean...so, Chris Kennedy, he keeps saying that he's going to reform the income property taxes, income tax and property taxes in Illinois. Do you know, does anybody know about the actual PLAN that he has? Kohn: I haven't seen the actual plan that he has there, but I think it's worth pointing out that if we look at the current situation, Illinois already has higher property taxes than any other state that doesn't even have ANY income tax, we have higher property taxes than Florida and Texas, every other state that does not have an income tax, we have higher property taxes than. Which indicates again that, you know, it's...this is a different-natured problem, and moving to a progressive income tax, while it's being sold as this way to, "We'll tax billionaires and that's the way we'll fix our state," that's not how it works in reality. In reality, it is a Trojan Horse for tax increases on the middle class. The progressive income tax would mean an overall 21% tax hike on most families, and that's just something that Illinois families cannot take, especially after dealing with the impacts of a tax hike in 2011, it did go away, and then the tax hike that happened last year. Proft: Yeah, it's interesting, too, what's happening in New Jersey, Zero Heads reporting on this yesterday. "New Jersey prepares to raise taxes on ALMOST EVERYTHING as it nears financial disaster. New Jersey's fiscal situation so dire that new Governor Phil Murphy is proposing taxing: online room-booking, ride-sharing, marijuana, e-cigarettes, internet transactions, along with raising taxes on millionaires and retail sales to fund their budget, which would do what? Boost spending on schools, pensions, and mass transit." So, again, we're not the only ones...the only state providing a bad example of how to govern, there are others...but we're still the WORST, make no mistake. But this is exactly what Big Government Republicans and Democrats have been doing that makes us the worst governed state in the nation, and you have Democrats in states like Jersey and Connecticut, California, doing the same thing. Kohn: Exactly. You know, in fairness to Illinois, we often take a look at the numbers and compare between different states, a total tax burden, property taxes etc. And in fairness, New Jersey is often the one state that keeps us from being WORST in the country in a handful of categories. But, you can see the philosophy is generally the same there. You take a look at the impact of the tax hike we had in 2011, our chief economist took a look at it and found that it cost the Illinois economy $56B in real GDP and cost about 9.3K jobs. We fully expect the impact of the 2017 tax hike to be similar to that. And now, here we are again, rather than talking about a spending cap, or spending reforms, or fixing a lot of the structural problems that plague the state of Illinois, now we're talking about a supposed tax to make billionaires pay their fair share, that is actually going to make any Illinoisan making more than 17 grand a year toss up more to Springfield. Jacobson: So, is there a possibility to fund our schools without using property taxes? Kohn: Well, I'm sure it's possible. It would require, again, changing the actual structure, the way we operate state government, which is of course a hard conversation that, of course, people in Springfield really don't want to have. So, instead, we get these conversations like "Oh, we just need to raise the income taxes on the flat tax we have, we need a progressive tax." Meanwhile, property taxes continue to go up. Unfortunately, many in Springfield don't want to have that kind of uncomfortable conversation, so we're having on that, as Dan rightly pointed out, plays popularly when you talk about taxing billionaires, when people, if they go to IllinoisPolicy.org, use our Tax Calculator, see what the impact would actually be on their family, they'll find out what the progressive income tax really is about, and it's about raising taxes on almost all Illinoisans. Proft: There's something interesting, and this is really a below the fold if you don'[t live up in McHenry County, you're not aware of this. But there's an interesting binding referendum on the ballot. This is in McHenry Township, where Bob Anderson, who we've spoken to on the show before, he's like an octogenarian barber from Wonder Lake, has been fighting against Township for a long time and he was able to get a referendum placed on the November ballot, I should clarify, that will ask voters whether to abolish the Township's road district. The binding referendum is sort of the first in...first of recent and note of...under the umbrella of consolidation of government. Illinois has more units of government than any other state, as you were just discussing Eric, that's what in part drives the highest property taxes in the nation, because you have all these taxing bodies, and in many cases there are redundancies. So it's not a...it's not an attack on Township government vs. municipal government vs. county government. You know, sometimes Township government is a better, more responsible actor than the municipal government or the county government, and so on and so forth. The issue is the larger issue of we just have larger and larger layers of government with redundancies and inefficiencies and we have to reduce those layers and those numbers if we're going to reduce people's property taxes and give them their homes back, for example. And so I just wonder what you think about this referendum up in McHenry County, how important it is, and how impactful REAL consolidation of local units of government could be in terms of improving the fiscal stability of the state. Kohn: This could have a huge impact, and yeah, that's a great example of what is going on in McHenry County, there. You know, and it would...people look at this and say "Oh, it's never possible, this never happens." It actually...it has happened before. I hail from Belleville, in Metro East, and Belleville eliminated Belleville Township just about a year, year and a half ago. So, this can happen, and it's going to need to happen, as you said, if we're going to reduce the property tax burdens that Illinoisans have. In addition to Townships, another one that we've proposed, and I think should seriously be considered, is reducing the number of school districts. Not the number of schools THEMSELVES (Proft: Yeah.), but the number of districts that oversee them. Because, of course, each district, you have a Superintendent, you have administration, you have that same kind of redundancy that exists. And that...if we could reduce the number of districts by approximately, I believe, 50%, by having the same approximate amount of students per district that California has, so it just shows you just how out of whack we are there, and each one of those districts with the personnel is what is continuing to drive the property tax burden that Illinoisans are paying and increasingly choosing NOT to pay by getting out of the state altogether. Proft: Well right, and just on that score of consolidation of school DISTRICTS, this...Jeanne Ives makes this point all the time, 1/4 of the school districts in the state, 850 school districts...have ONE SCHOOL. So it's just an unnecessary layer of government, as you're...and administrative bloat...as you're suggesting, Eric. So there's opportunities to restructure the way we do things in Illinois, we could do it, if we're so inclined. Eric Kohn, the marketing manager at the Illinois Policy Institute, IllinoisPolicy.org, Eric, thanks for joining us, appreciate it. Kohn: Thanks for having me!