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They Run for the Money

  Have you noticed how quickly Illinois politicians move when it comes to raising taxes or fees?

  Take the Illinois Tollway Authority, for example, and how speedily it "closed" this week's decision to nearly double the rates drivers pay to use the system's highways.

  Board Chairman Paula Wolfe reminded me that her members had considered a toll increase to fund a $12 billion capital program since early 2010. 

  But public hearings on the 87.5% proposed hike did not begin until August 18th and the series of 15 sessions were crammed into the next five days ending on August 23rd.

  Incredibly, the Board met  two days later on the morning of August 25th to "vote" its approval of the 15-year program as if the members had given any real study or consideration to the public testimony, most of which was orchestrated by self-interested labor unions and roadbuilders.

  While covering what critics called the "done deal" at the Tollway's palatial Downers Grove headquarters, I could not help but think of the Chicago Public School Board's decision a day earlier to approve a "maximum-allowed" increase in the city property tax.

  On August 5th, only one week after Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Chicagoans were being "nickeled and dimed" by taxers, the CPS Board appointed by the Mayor proposed raising property taxes.  The new levy would cost the owner of an average home ($250,000) an additional $84 a year.  The increase would generate $150 million dollars of the district's projected $712 million deficit.

  Taxpayers barely had a chance to see the CPS budget on line, let alone on paper, before public hearings were scheduled five days later on August 10th, 11th and 12th. 

  Emanuel's Board voted and approved the tax increase unanimously August 24th. 


  The Tollway Authority and Chicago School Board may have learned from the "clinic" Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and the democratic legislative leaders held earlier this year on "the need for speed".

  Remember last January when the General Assembly reconvened for its "lame duck" session? 

  In a scant 48 hours ending before dawn on Jan. 12th, the democratic-controlled House and Senate had raised the Illinois corporate and personal income tax rates only hours before new members could be seated.  The next day, January 13th, the Governor signed the bill, which was retroactive to January 1st.


  Taxpayers never knew what hit 'em.

   Keep in mind that high-speed taxation is happening in Illinois as newly-elected state and city "reform" politicians use the word "transparent" to describe their new modus operandi.

  Its transparent, all right.

  Taxpayers should see right through it.




Pat Quinn's Week to Forget

   The past seven days were Governor Pat Quinn's worst week politically since the 2010 general election campaign began back in February.

   Remember last Monday's ABC7 News report on the governor's appearance at a southside church to sign a bill requiring the Chicago Public Schools to set up a new hotline for young people to report crimes.  Shortly afterward, he joined a group of African-American ministers, including the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Senator James Meeks, on a march in the Roseland neighborhood where police were still looking for the killers of a 13 year old boy who had been murdered execution-style. 

   The reverend Senator Meeks--who leads the 20,000-member Salem Baptist Church--made it clear that he still had not decided whether to endorse his fellow democrat Quinn for election in November.  And notably, none of the other black clergymen stepped forward to say that they had decided to back the governor's campaign.

  The conventional wisdom is that for Quinn to prevail in November, he must win an overwhelming majority of Chicago's African-American vote.

   But the ministers to whom I've spoken are concerned that the governor's campaign is taking their support for granted.  One, who wished to remain anonymous, said that during the group's private session with Quinn earlier that morning the governor appeared and sounded "disconnected".


   Then I found out that three days later, on Thursday, some of the same ministers who attended the Roseland bill-signing joined others in a secret meeting with republican gubernatorial candidate Senator Bill Brady.   The breakfast at Pearl's Restaurant at 39th and Indiana included an estimated two dozen black clergymen and was described as the "opening of a dialogue" with the Bloomington conservative.

  Several of the ministers described Senator Brady as "nothing like the right-wing extremist" described by Governor Quinn and his operatives.

  And it gets worse for Quinn.

  While the meeting at Pearl's was underway, Rasmussen Reports issued the results of a telephone survey of 750 likely Illinois voters.   The respondents favored Senator Brady over the incumbent governor by a margin of 48% to 35%.  It was the largest spread since Rasmussen began polling the race last march and suggested that Quinn's midsummer bill-signing binge had not endeared him to Illinois voters.

  Then, on Friday, the Governor took another haymaker.

  Judge David Erickson's seven month investigation concluded that the Quinn administration's 2009 MGT-Push program had put public safety at risk.  Erickson said the Illinois Department of Corrections--in an ill-conceived effort the save money for the cash-strapped state--accelerated offers of "Meritorius Good Time" to reduce the sentences of many inmates, some of whom were violent offenders who should not have been involved in the program.

  By Sunday, Brady was holding a news conference blasting Quinn for MGT-Push and demanding that the governor fire IDOC director Michael Randle.

  It isn't the first time in Pat Quinn's 19 months as governor that he's been on the ropes.  And I've lost count of the times that he's gotten up off the political canvas during his long and storied career.

  But clearly, the momentum his campaign sought to generate this summer was lost in the last seven days...

  ...during a week he'd like to forget.