“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Posted on by Steve Reick | 1 Comment

So What? It’s Not My Money.

“A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” –  Everett Dirsken

DeskWhen you’re as broke as we are here in Illinois, you don’t have that much margin for error. That’s what leads us to this picture of my empty desk in the Capitol Building. Generally, there’d be a laptop sitting there. Each of us has a Think Pad issued to us for our use on the floor, and their use is generally confined to reading staff updates and analysis of bills then under consideration. Every time a bill is called, the latest analysis automatically pops up on the screen. They’re fully functional machines, with full internet access and a full suite of word processing and other tools.

There isn’t one of us in the House who thinks we need a new laptop. But somebody decided that at the end of this past session, all 118 members of the House (I’m not sure what’s going on in the Senate) needed a new one. At an average price of $400 apiece, that means the State is ponying up some $47,000 to buy something none of us asked for and none of us need.

I know, $47,000 is nothing but a rounding error in a $36 billion budget, but maybe it’s the type of expense people can understand when we talk about how much money is wasted in this State. If you can’t wrap your head around a number as big as $36 billion, it’s not so hard to imagine spending $47,000 on something you have no use for.

This is just one example of the type of casual indifference to how the Illinois legislature spends other peoples’ money. Think about all the others that you don’t hear about.

Posted in Cost of Government, Illinois Budget | 1 Comment

Putting the Brakes on County Board Chairman Excesses

I’ve written the following letter to the Governor, asking him to veto House Bill 171:

HB 171 Letter

Also, if you want to refresh your memory as to what this is all about, here’s a trip down memory lane:

County Executive Forum

Watch this video on YouTube.
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If At First You Don’t Succeed, Go to Springfield to Get Your Way

In 2012 the voters of McHenry County voted down a referendum which would have established a “County Executive” form of government. As described in an article by Kevin Craver in the Northwest Herald, the authority of the County Executive included:

  • Preparing the county’s annual budget;
  • Appointing people to boards and commissions;
  • Hiring and firing department employees;
  • Entering into intergovernmental agreements;
  • Negotiating with public and private entities to promote economic development;
  • Redrawing county board district boundaries after each decennial U.S. Census;
  • Appointing independent legal counsel.

After the referendum was defeated, the voters of McHenry County in 2014 passed a referendum to make the position of County Board Chairman a popularly-elected position, instead of being appointed by the members of the Board itself. In 2016, McHenry County elected its first popularly elected Board Chairman.

Not content with to work within the boundaries prescribed by the Illinois Counties Code, a bill narrowly tailored to apply to McHenry County was offered up during veto session which expanded the powers of the Chairman to do the following:

“With the advice and consent of a majority of the county board, a county board chairman elected by the voters of the county shall:

  • Create standing committees; and
  • Appoint members and chairpersons to standing committees.

This Section applies to counties having a population between 300,000 and 900,000.”

If these changes are going to be made, the voters of McHenry County should be the ones to make them. Instead, what we’re getting is the County Executive form of government by going to Springfield, which is a craven end-around attempt to do what the people of McHenry County rejected in 2012. I spoke out against the bill on the House floor, and I will encourage the Governor to veto the bill when it hits his desk.

Rep. Reick Fights to Preserve Voter Intent in McHenry County

Watch this video on YouTube.
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Electoral Chicken Feed Disguised as a Tax Freeze

They call it “Veto Session”, but it really ought to be called “Propose Bills and Make Speeches That Can Be Used on Campaign Materials Session”.

Case in point: Senate Bill 851, which would require counties to freeze all property tax levies for two years, and would increase the real estate homestead exemption from $6,000 to $10,000 and would increase the Senior homestead exemption from $5,000 to $8,000.

Generally, I’d say that anything that lowers property taxes is a good thing, and I’d be in full support. What S.B. 851 does is give everyone in Illinois the same homestead and Senior exemption that was given to Cook County in May. However, if it wasn’t good enough to give to everyone outside Cook County then, what makes it such a good idea now? Why? Electoral politics, of course. The bill’s sponsor is considered a target in the November election and needs to burnish her credentials for the folks back home. I voted against S.B. 473 in May because it did nothing for the people in my district, and while it now gives us the same treatment as Cook County, the combination of this with the two-year freeze will do more harm than good.

And here’s why:

  • First of all, it paints all taxing districts with the same broad brush. There are plenty of taxing districts here in McHenry County that have held their levies flat for years, and in some instances decreased them. They don’t need that model of financial rectitude, the Illinois legislature, to tell them how to do their business.
  • Second, the combination of increased exemptions and the freeze will do nothing to lower property taxes; all it will do is shift that burden to renters and businesses. We’re having a hard enough time as it is attracting and keeping businesses in this county, we don’t need to drive up their tax burdens even further.
  • While property taxes are too high, S.B. 851 carves out an important exemption: debt. Local governments have in most cases already set their budgets for the current year. If this bill were to be enacted, they’d be driven into a situation of having to borrow to pay current bills. Raise your hand if you think that’s a good idea.

I’ll be the first to say we need property tax reform, I’ve been saying it for years. But you don’t get reform by offering up “gotcha” bills just before an election year. I spoke against the bill on the floor of the House, my comments are here:

Rep. Reick: "Illinois needs tax reform, not tax gimmicks"

Watch this video on YouTube.

Here’s the final clue that this bill was just electoral chicken feed. After passing the House, the Senate adjourned without taking it up.

Posted in 2018 Election, Property Taxes | Leave a comment

It’s Time to Name Names of Sexual Harassers in Springfield.

Nothing has rocked Springfield in the past months more than an open letter describing an environment of sexual harassment “ranging from daily microaggressions to acts of pure viciousness”.

Before I go any further, let me say that I have no doubt that sexual harassment goes on in Springfield (though I wouldn’t know a “microagression” from a microwave. It sounds to me like a subjectively insignificant action that would be better handled with a puppy or a juice box). I have no sympathy for it, and if guys want to walk around acting like cave men with a club, count me out.

Last night on Chicago Tonight, four legislators were interviewed and talked about the letter and the need for legislation to address the problem. Carol Marin did her best to get them to describe their experiences and name the person who was the source of the harassment. When it came to naming names, she failed.

Representative Sarah Feigenholtz said that she herself hadn’t been harassed and didn’t know who the perpetrators are. If that’s true, then Representative Feigenholtz doesn’t get around much, because one thing that’s certainly more widespread in Springfield than sexual harassment is gossip. She then went on to put some of the blame on Donald Trump for the recent spike in harassment claims. That’s sure to advance the conversation.

Senator Heather Steans eschewed naming her harasser because it happened in the past. When asked if that let the guy off the hook, she dodged the question and said that witnesses need to be “trained” so they can jump in and object to the activity. She went on to say that training wouldn’t be enough, but we need training nonetheless.

Representative Robin Gabel said that “everyone can make their play, doesn’t go anywhere”, sounding as if everyone is entitled to one freebie. So what is it: harassment from the get-go or establishing flexible guidelines? You can’t have it both ways.

Representative Chris Welch said he heard from a male former staffer who said he’d been propositioned by a female legislator, which at least gives us the perception of gender-neutrality.

I said above that I have no sympathy for those who think that they’re entitled to act like boorish clods. The reason I have no use for it is that I was brought up that way, I had parents who taught me that human nature is imperfectible and it was my job to resist the baser instincts to which we’re all subject. In that regard, Senator Steans is right, training won’t be enough. Nothing will be enough until human nature bends toward androgyny.

But if my colleagues want me to sign on to this, they’re certainly not doing it the right way. I’m not saying I’m blameless, but I’m damned sure not going to allow myself to be painted with their broad brush, nor will I subject myself to whatever “training” is imposed. By implying that I’m part of the problem simply by occupying a seat on the House floor or through the accident of birth of having been born male, they’re giving me every reason to say “no”. I assume the culture extends beyond Ira Silvertein. If they want my support, then name names.

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