Grassroots Battle Brewing Against Illinois Tax Hike

Published January 1, 2005

Jim Peschke of Harvard, Illinois, co-founder of Citizens for Reasonable and Fair Taxes (CRAFT), began a full-court press last Fall with other taxpayers and member organizations to defeat the proposed state tax-reform bill, HB 750.

According to Peschke, the bill is “a catastrophic piece of legislation for taxpayers, for families, and for those who seek true education reform.”

Peschke testified against the bill at an Illinois Senate hearing in the Fall of 2004.

“House and Senate bills that have served the special interests instead of the common good are nothing new, but HB 750 is in a class by itself,” Peschke said. “More than just a colossal tax hike, HB 750 promotes the status quo of ballooning school spending and minimal accountability. It would be difficult to design legislation more harmful to both taxpayers and public education than HB 750.”

Property Taxes Already High

Judy K. Cocks of Johnsburg, Illinois testified that Illinois residents and businesses already pay plenty of taxes to schools.

“From 1995 to 2003 the total funding, also known as taxes, for education in Illinois rose from $17 billion to $29 billion,” Cocks said. “That is a 70 percent increase. And what was the increase in student population during this time? It was only 7.3 percent,” she told legislators.

Cocks also told the Senate panel, “Illinois ranks 5th highest in the union for total dollars spent on education. Even Education Week states that Illinois spends above the national average [per capita] on education. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Illinois has the 9th highest per-capita tax burden in the nation. We Illinoisans are not under-taxed nor under-spending for education.”

Chris Jenner, a resident of Cary, Illinois, also testified against HB 750.

“House Bill 750 has an inherent structural problem in that school spending is outpacing the bill’s foundation level increase index, which outpaces the cost of living,” Jenner said. “The bill unquestioningly assumes that all school cost and spending increases, no matter how high, must be met with increased funding, i.e. increased taxes. Because it will leave an oppressive tax burden for today’s children, House Bill 750 should be tabled in favor of more responsible solutions.”

School Funding Rising Fast

State funding for Illinois’ public schools has increased by more than $1 billion over the past two years without a tax increase, according to Becky Watts, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Board of Education. She told the Associated Press on November 5 that the additional money totals “about $400 for every student in the state’s 888 public schools.”

John W. Skorburg ([email protected]) is a visiting lecturer at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and associate editor of Budget & Tax News.