Northwest Herald | Schaumburg: Friends, enemies when it comes to taxes

TUA’s 15th tax survey of the Illinois General Assembly was featured in an article at Northwest Herald.
NWheraldtaxsurveyWhen it comes to friends and enemies of taxpayers, McHenry County residents have neither – not even Jack Franks.

That’s the opinion of Taxpayers United of America, one of the largest taxpayer organizations in the country.
TUA last week released its 15th biennial tax survey of the Illinois General Assembly. The survey reveals the tax-and-spending records of every member of the 97th General Assembly from January 2011 to January 2013.
“The 97th General Assembly accomplished little to improve the tax landscape for Illinois residents,” TUA President Jim Tobin said in a news release. “Unfortunately, the real legacy of the 97th General Assembly is the lack of any government pension reform. While lawmakers nickel-and-dime Illinois taxpayers with increased license plate taxes and numerous speed and red-light cameras, they failed to reform the problem that is bankrupting the state and causing residents to flee in droves.”
TUA’s survey examines every lawmaker’s vote on bills regarding tax cuts and tax increases. A lawmaker can achieve a perfect score if he or she votes for each tax cut and against each tax increase. Such a lawmaker would receive a score of 100 percent.
Based on TUA’s assessment, there were only five taxpayer friends in the 97th General Assembly, and they all were Republicans from the House: Patricia Bellock (47th District), Paul Evans (102nd), Mike Fortner (95th), Chad Hays (104th) and Jil Tracy (93rd).
Those five scored a 71 percent on the survey. Do you know who else scored a 71 percent? Franks, the Democrat from Marengo.
However, Franks failed to make the taxpayer friends list. Why? Because he’s a Democrat.
Tobin told me this week that in this survey and the previous survey, TUA refused to put Democrats on the friends list because of the orchestrated and “structured” vote to raise the personal and corporate income tax in Illinois during a lame-duck session in 2011.
TUA doesn’t trust Democrats’ votes, so they don’t make the friends list. Franks, by the way, voted against the income-tax increase.
As for taxpayer enemies, 20 Illinois senators made the list, including James Meeks (15th), who scored a zero. Forty-two Illinois House members were on the enemies list, including House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Locally, state Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry, scored a 50 percent. State Sen. Dan Duffy, R-Lake Barrington, scored a 64 percent.
Besides Franks in the House, Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, scored a 50 percent. The late Mark Beaubien, R-Barrington Hills, didn’t score in the survey. His replacement, Kent Gaffney, R-Lake Barrington, scored a 64 percent.

ABC 7 Chicago | I-Team discovers taxpayer-funded Supreme Court facelift

TUA President Jim Tobin was featured in a story from ABC 7 Chicago on the taxpayer-funded state Supreme Court renovation. To see the video, click on the player below, or go to the ABC 7 website here.

By Chuck Goudie and Ross Weidner
September 23, 2013 (WLS) — Even though Illinois is broke and the governor this month ordered a halt to rehabbing the Illinois Capitol, the ABC7 I-Team has uncovered some pricey construction still going full steam. The work is costing millions in tax dollars.
Illinois remains mired in a $7 billion sinkhole, and two weeks ago Governor Pat Quinn put the brakes on $50 million in state house necessities, such as new chandeliers and fancy office doors. But the I-Team has found millions more still being spent just down the street from the state Capitol, on a project state officials won’t talk about.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Pat Gardner, Bolingbrook resident.
Pat Gardner is one taxpayer so aggravated about state spending she asked to talk to the I-Team, and when we showed her video you’re about to see, she was irate.
“It has to be investigated because we deserve an answer, we are the taxpayers,” said Gardner.
And it is taxpayers putting out $16 million on a facelift for the century-old state Supreme Court building. The overhaul is part of Governor Quinn’s “Illinois Jobs Now” program.
“This is such a waste of taxpayer money,” said Jim Tobin, Taxpayers United for America.
State officials backed out of an I-Team interview after a recent uproar about the $50 million Capitol renovation down the street. But they did allow the I-Team to inspect how taxpayer money is being spent here in the Supreme Court.
Inside, we found rooms gutted and walls being restored to their historic origin at a cost of nearly half a million dollars. Original historic light fixtures have all been removed and are being cleaned and restored or replaced.
You’re also paying to purchase a brand-new marble pedestal to raise this statue of Abraham Lincoln from the floor to eye-level.
And then there is this: the toilet rooms. During a financial crisis, your tax money is being spent to restore the courthouse toilet rooms to how they looked 100 years ago.
“It’s a scam perpetrated on the taxpayers, I mean, restoring historic toilet rooms to their original look? Who cares?” said Tobin.
This private anteroom behind the Supreme Court chambers used to only have one chandelier. Now, the state is purchasing two more historic copies. The renovation’s “miscellaneous specialties” include restoring these historic tapestries, murals, and replacing this decorative glass in a stairwell ceiling.
“People are paying higher taxes to finance this waste and extravagance,” said Tobin.
In a statement late Monday, Illinois officials insist the renovation is mainly for vital heating and cooling systems, fire protection and security measures that “saves taxpayer money in operating costs.” They say renovations on old buildings are best done all at one time for “historical accuracy with modern function.”
The ABC7 I-Team found some of the money is being used to makeover a place the public can’t even go and probably never knew existed: a private, penthouse residence for Supreme Court justices, where they may live while court is in session. The main hallway is being restored to its historical glory.
“Fifty million dollars spent on the west wing of the state Capitol, here’s another 15, 16 million dollars spent to renovate the IL Supreme Court building, that’s all pork,” said Tobin.
For taxpayer Pat Gardner, the talk– and the hammering– should stop.
“Who’s minding the store? Who’s running the state? Who’s signing off on this stuff?” said Gardner.
The renovation was in the works for years according to state officials and they say financed with bonds that can’t be used to pay regular bills. During the remodeling the court is meeting in Chicago, the first time since 1908 that justices have convened outside Springfield.
Additional information:
Project Plans
Project bid advertisement
Breakdown of Historic Preservation:

    • $230,858 (Exterior doors & windows  included custom paint, grill restoration and other related misc)
    • $156,371 (Partitions & interior door / glazing / hardware / window treatments)
    • $107,485 (Floor finishes)
    • $26,701 (Base finishes)
    • $488,052 (Wall finishes)
    • $1,075 (Ceiling finishes)
    • $146,117(Miscellaneous specialties)
    • $56,345 (Misc built-in cabinetwork)
    • $54,650 (Site Preparation)
    • $15,441 (Electrical Demo)
    • $401,044 (Lighting)
  • $30,000 (Conduit, wire, receptacles etc.–estimated)

Estimated Total Historic Preservation Cost: $1,714,139

(Copyright ©2013 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

Illinois Policy Institute | Illinois’ state government pension crisis and the top 100 pensioners

Findings from TUA’s Illinois pension project are featured at the Illinois Policy Institute website.
IPItop100Illinois’ current unfunded state government pension liabilities total approximately $200 billion under Moody’s Investors Service’s new methodology.
The Illinois Policy Institute estimates that the state’s pension funding ratio is currently less than 25 percent, meaning the state has the worst-funded pension system in the nation.
Buried within this massive financial obligation are thousands of current retirees earning six-figure pensions.
The top 100 retirees alone are estimated to collect $623 million in pension payments throughout their lifetime, according to data from the Taxpayers United of America. More than 9,900  current retirees collect more than $100,000 annually in pension. That number is expected to grow to 25,000 pensioners collecting more than $100,000 each annually by 2020.
Some top pensioners will collect more than 100 times the amount they contribute to the system throughout their lifetime.
In addition to their six-figure pensions, these retirees are also guaranteed compounded 3 percent annual cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs – which function as automatic raises that make the system even more unaffordable. These generous benefits are pushing the state’s pension system closer to the edge.
Illinois’ pension system is already unsustainable and nearly insolvent. Paying out 3 percent compounding COLAs on top of six-figure pensions will only collapse the systems sooner.
Illinois must modernize its retirement system.

The Illinois Policy Institute has put together a plan that does just that. The solution cuts unfunded pension debt in half and includes a defined contribution plan as the main pillar of its reforms while protecting already-earned benefits for government workers. It can be found in House Bill 3303 and Senate Bill 2026.