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

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Game On

Smoke Filled RoomLast weekend, McHenry County Democrats came out from behind closed doors to announce that they’d unanimously selected John Bartman to run as the party’s candidate for Illinois’ 63rd House district, replacing Jack Franks on the November ballot. So much for openness, transparency and letting the voters decide.

Bartman’s appointment adds yet another chapter to the sordid tale of intrigue that began when Mike Madigan and/or Jack Franks (probably both) enlisted Jeff Lichte, a reliable Democrat, to run in the Republican primary. Their obvious intention was to get him on the ballot so they could block the Republicans from later slating a candidate, thus saving them from having to go through the charade of pretending they were opening up the appointment process to anyone interested in running for the job.

Instead, they could have simply announced in April that they had their guy, a protégé of Jack Franks who got a $45,000 per year patronage job at IDOT at Franks’ request, and who now works for an outfit that claims it was established to support, promote, and encourage fair contracting (translation: prevailing wage contracts). Bartman is a “monitor” for McHenry and Lake Counties.

OK, now that the Democrats have their candidate, it’s time to find out just what how independent he’ll be if he’s elected:

  • Will he vote for Mike Madigan as Speaker of the House?
  • Will he vote for Mike Madigan’s House Rules?
  • Will he pledge to vote to term limit his party’s leadership?
  • Will he disavow Mike Madigan’s lawsuit to get redistricting reform thrown off the November ballot?

When asked by the McHenry County Blog why he was running, Bartman said:

“I’m running to make Springfield work again. It’s an absolute travesty. I’m running to bring tax relief to the middle class of McHenry County.”

The travesty in Springfield is of his own party’s making. I, along with the people of this District would like to know why it is that he thinks that another vote on Madigan’s side of the aisle will change that.

It’s time to start debating the issues. Game on.

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Providing Some Breathing Room to Seniors

Property Tax Credit

Click Image to Enlarge

As we search for ways to lower property taxes for everyone, there’s a simple remedy to allow those who live on fixed retirement incomes to gain some relief.

If you take a look at your Illinois income tax return, you’ll see that there’s a credit (a dollar-for-dollar reduction of tax) equal to 5% of your home’s property tax bill that you can claim to reduce your income tax liability. For instance, if your property tax bill is $5,000, you can claim a $250 credit against that liability.

However, the credit is “non-refundable”, which, as is stated in Publication 108 from the Illinois Department of Revenue:

“If your property tax credit exceeds the tax you owe, you may not receive a refund for that amount, and you may not carry unused credit to other years. Your property tax credit may only reduce the tax you owe to zero.”

The problem for most retirees, however, is that since Illinois doesn’t tax retirement income or social security, they don’t pay any state income tax. All retirement income taxed on their Federal returns is shown as a subtraction on their Illinois returns, often leaving them with zero taxable state income. Thus, the credit offers no relief to offset their ever-escalating property tax bill.

I would propose allowing the credit to become refundable for anyone over age 65 whose income Federal adjusted gross income (the starting point for calculating Illinois taxable income) is below $50,000, and when reduced by the subtraction for retirement income results in no state income tax. This would allow those seniors most affected by rising property taxes to gain some measure of relief.

The image at the top of this post is from the tax return of a client of mine whose adjusted gross income in 2015 was a little under $50,000, consisting mostly of a private pension, IRA distributions and social security and who paid over $9,500 in property taxes here in McHenry County. Had the credit been refundable, my client would’ve gotten a state tax refund of $477. Not a lot, but better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Until we have real property tax relief for everyone, which can only come when we change the way we pay for education in this state, measures such as this will at least help those most in peril of losing their homes some small respite.

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“Mort de la Guerre”

GraveForty years ago while bicycling through eastern France, I took a break and walked into a small grove of trees which grew in the middle of a wheat field. There, sitting in a small clearing was a simple stone, inscribed with the phrase “mort de la guerre”.

There was no name, no date and no means of identification, just a simple stone marking the final resting place of someone who had fallen in defense of Liberty.

Since then, the men and women of the United States armed forces have been sent to the far corners of the world to defend the Liberty that we so often take for granted. It’s only appropriate that we dedicate at least one day a year in remembrance of those who didn’t come back.

This weekend there will be remembrances, parades, and family gatherings. To those of you for whom that family gathering will be to honor one of their own who, in words attributed to Lincoln: “laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom”, we should all offer a silent moment of thanks.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said in 2003:

“Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.”

Cemeteries around the world stand as testimony to the price our country has been willing to pay for our freedom. But whether it’s the beautifully manicured grounds at Arlington or Normandy or an anonymous grave in eastern France, our obligation is the same: to remember the cost of freedom and to honor all who were “mort de la guerre”.

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I Won’t Take a Legislative Pension

With all the attention being paid over the kerfuffle about County Board pensions instigated by Local 150 and its Legislative pet snake, I thought this would be a good time to let you know that when I take office in January of 2017, my first order of business will be to decline to take a legislative pension.

It’s not a hard decision to make, since I’d be coming in under the new Tier II rules, which are much less favorable to its participants, to the point of those participants being treated as indentured servants to those still accruing benefits under the old Tier I system, like our current Representative.

I wouldn’t have taken it anyway, since I don’t think anyone in elective office should be eligible for a pension. Besides, I’m not going to be there long enough to vest into the system, so why should I subsidize Jack Franks’ bloated and underfunded pension? No, I’ll take part of whatever I get paid and slap it into an IRA. At least I’ll know the money will be there.

Perhaps the state’s pension plans wouldn’t be in the shape they’re in had Franks paid as much attention to them as he’s paying to what’s going on here with the County Board. I guess we’ll never know, but after 18 years he still refuses to take responsibility for anything that happens in Springfield.

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New Media Content on Steve463.com

prnewsonline.com

prnewsonline.com

I’ve added a media page to my website, where you can go to listen to interviews and watch videos we’re putting together for the campaign. The first posts are interviews I’ve done in the past several weeks with Brad Hays on his Property Tax Show on WIND AM-560 and Northwest Spectrum, Stew Cohen’s program about local issues airing on Star 105.5 FM in Crystal Lake. Just hover your mouse pointer over the “Media” tab on the menu at the top of the page.

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