Boone County Board destroys future credibility

If there was ever an action taken by an elected body that eliminated any lingering trust in elected official’s credibility, look no further than the Boone County Board majority. In order to aid the passage of a 1999 referendum for construction bonds to fund a $9.3 million dollar jail expansion, members of the Boone County Board and bond proponents promised voters, and added a clause in a 2011 ordinance, that pledged when the bonds were retired in 2018, the one-half cent sales tax would be repealed – a sunset clause. In March, 2015, the Boone County Board rescinded the 2018 sunset clause without any input from the taxpayers, allowing the board to continue to use the sales tax to pay off other public safety operations and capital expenditures after the bonds are retired. This action by the Boone County Board will place the credibility of all taxing bodies in jeopardy for future tax referendums with board guaranteed end dates. Many taxpayers will simply point their collective fingers toward the Boone County Board as the typical example that regardless of promises made, all taxes will be collected for an indeterminate period because elected officials can’t be trusted. The lame excuse given by the current board majority for rescinding the sunset clause was that “no one can promise and obligate a future board 20 years down the road.” If that’s the case, why not let the 2018 board make its own decision on the sales tax sunset clause with voter input? It seems obvious that the current county board is the one tying the hands of future boards. Current boards are obligated by previous board’s decisions all the time, whether the decisions are 20 year bonds, increases in staff salaries, benefits and other long term expenditures, which future boards must by law continue to implement. The contracts signed and payments made for the construction bond, which was passed almost two decades ago, obligated all the Boone County boards elected during that period, including the current board to 20 years of debt service. It is how the system works. Bob Walberg, Chairman of the Boone County Board recently wrote in a column stating that he believed, “the real reasons most people supported the referendum is because they saw the need for public safety as the ballot stated.” That’s conjecture, Bob, since your board just denied the Boone County taxpayers an opportunity to voice their preference to continue or eliminate the sales tax as other districts in the area have done for their constituents. Also, your comments concerning lower revenues and cuts by state government have affected all taxing districts in the area, not just Boone County. Thankfully other area boards, regardless of budget constraints, have honored their sunset clauses by asking for voter input, unlike the Boone County Board rescinding their sunset clause with little or no public awareness of their intentions, using a deft sleight of hand with the published meeting agenda. The Rockford School District and the City of Rockford have enhanced their trust and credibility, by asking their voters multiple times over the past decade to continue or rescind the various taxes for capital improvement or for operation and expenses with resoundingly successful outcomes each time after informing their voters what was to be done with the money. The...

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Governor, pass budget reforms before shifting funds or transferring local fund reserves

Chuck Sweeny writes in the Rockford Register Star, “With Illinois on the verge of running out of money to pay day care centers, court reporters and prison guards, Gov. Bruce Rauner said Thursday a solution can be found easily, by shifting money from the state’s hundreds of special funds into the General Fund.” Governor, isn’t skimming off special fund monies to support day care, court reporters, prison guards and other “essential” General Fund services the same excuse your predecessors, Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn used? Wasn’t this practice roundly criticized by Republicans? Also, it was this kind of inter-fund borrowing mentality that resulted in a severely underfunded pension program that has placed the state in such a precarious financial situation in the first place. If these special funds are so non-essential, as Illinois governors seem to believe, were these special funds set aside for such General Fund emergencies, and if so, why did the state begin the special funds in the first place? Besides, this technique of robbing Peter to pay Paul is at best a temporary solution. Without substantial cuts in the state’s General Fund or increasing state revenues, what will the strategy be for next year’s expenditures in these essential state areas when the special funds run out of money? Another strategy being considered by the governor is to increase the state’s revenue side of the equation by sharing only half the income tax previously shared with the cities and counties. Is this a new unfunded state mandate on the cities and counties; unfunded mandates, which the governor promised were to be reduced or eliminated? According to the article, our new governor’s view is that the local governments “have among them $18 billion in reserve … $18 billion is a lot of money” – a new source of state revenue apparently. The reason the locals have those reserves, governor, which you now view as a revenue source to be transferred to the state, is that many local government bodies have remained frugal, cutting expenditures to stay within their budgets, while your predecessors and the General Assembly were unwilling to do the same to balance their budget. The state kicked the can down the road by borrowing billions of dollars each year to cover their deficits. Local governments were forced to take on more and more of the state’s liabilities, yet still managed to balance their budgets and even managed to save some money for a rainy day. Also, you met with the Rockford mayor and discussed your reforms, which are intended to reduce local costs and may increase the chances of balancing local budgets with the state reforms you are considering. First, pass the reforms governor. Demonstrate that the General Assembly is willing to vote for your reforms, intended to make our local elected jobs easier and less costly, before transferring our local budget reserves to the state in the form of reduced state income tax...

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Michigan soon to be “Right to Work” state?

According to the December 7th Patriot Post, Michigan is the headquarters of the Big Three auto unions, making it one of the most unionized states in the nation. That may soon change. Republicans control the state legislature and the governor’s mansion, and the House just voted to pass a right-to-work bill that the Senate should also approve and Governor Rick Synder will sign. Michigan will be the 24th state to do so – the nation is almost halfway to becoming a right-to-work union, pardon the pun. Right-to-work does not outlaw unions, but simply allows the workers the freedom to choose whether they wish to join the union and allow them to deduct dues from their paycheck. Unions caused the state assembly and the governor to initiate the legislation because the unions had sought to amend the state constitution to ban right-to-work legislation, which was resoundingly defeated in this November’s election. The Republicans effort is to increase state jobs – Right-to-work states have approximately 20% more manufacturing jobs than do states without such laws and income in those states rose faster than non right-to-work states Obviously, big labor unions oppose right-to-work laws vigorously because it will undoubtedly cost them a large chunk of their membership and more importantly, the dues they collect before the check goes to the worker. If membership drops, it will be due to the fact that a choice has been given to those who now work for the Big Three, where they couldn’t before because they were forced to join the union against their will in order to work. Aren’t Democrats supposed to be in favor...

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Mr. President, where are the spending cuts?

The Republicans have indicated that they are willing to make concessions on the revenue side of the president’s “balanced approach”, but where are the corresponding recommendations from the president for discretionary and entitlement budget cuts that are needed to decrease the country’s rising debt, currently at $16.25T dollars? The president is dictating that Congress increase the taxes on those making over $250,000, which of course will not affect the middle class in any way, and he and the Democratic Senate will make spending cuts at some point in the future. Yea, right! The president is using the same technique used by the Democratic Congress on Reagan in the 1980s, promising that if the president raised taxes, they would make future cuts in spending. It never happened.   The Republicans need to follow the old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me.” This “Lucy from Peanuts” technique of pulling away the football at the last second from Charlie Brown has actually been used twice by the Democrats. Besides, taxing only those who make over $250,000 will go just so far – about 8.5 days of President Obama’s $3.5B dollar a day addiction to overspending. It’s symbolism over substance to make his political base happy and to maintain his class envy that now divides the country. Actually, the president is intentionally refusing to take a leadership role in picking the spending cuts, not wishing to anger his political base, so he wants the Republicans to do it, and then blame them. What a leader! One entitlement, Social Security, has already been taken off the table by Democrats for cuts to future beneficiaries, a program that this year alone added over 11% to Obama’s deficit. Now our dictator-in-chief is trying to take a page out of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s book on how to run a country by demanding that Congress give up its constitutional right to consent to raising the debt ceiling in the future. Obama has also doubled down on how much he wants to raise the taxes, so that he can now pay for his overspending for almost 17 of the 365 days next year. Not only has the president refused to mention spending cuts, but he actually wants $50B in new stimulis spending, while they are trying to reduce the deficit. OMG! The only leadership being shown by President Obama is how to jump off the fiscal...

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Unintended consequences of reducing size of county board

First, the Winnebago County board relinquished its role in the Forest Preserve District and the constiuents voted for an independent board to handle the job. How’s that working out for you so far? The Rockford Register Star has an ongoing poll which askes almost daily, “If you had a do-over, would you still vote to create a separate board of commissioners to govern the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District?” The options include, “Yes. The controversies the board has dealt with are just part of normal growing pains for a new entity. No. The board is a mess and I see no hope for it. And Undecided. Let’s see what happens after the election.” Then the county board voted to reduce spending and improve its accountability by reducing the size of the board from 28 to 20 members, by reducing the number of representatives from 2 in each of the 14 districts to 20 single member districts. So, while reducing the board members by 8, six districts were added, so the unintended consequencies were not as obvious as one might think. Republicans controlled 20 of the 28 seats prior to this decision, and following this weeks election, Republicans will control 13 of the 20 County board seats when new members take their seats on December 3. Unlike the Democrats in Springfield, run by Chicago, the county board equitably distributed the reapportioned districts with both parties having input into the process and placed an equal number of both parties against each other in targeted districts to reduce the number of members by eight. The unintended consequence of the election Tueday night, coupled with the reapprotionment process, is that the Republicans were reduced from 20 to 13 and the Democrats will be reduced from 8 to 7. The Republican caucus lost the equivalent of 7 of the 8 seats reduced! Since the total members are reduced by 8, the percentage only decreases from 71.5% to 65% but … The committee chair positions will still be picked by the majority Republican caucus, however, the committees will be smaller or combinations of committees is a possiblity, to lessen problems with committee quorems or conflicting times, since there are only so many hours in the day, board members and staff have jobs and limited number of days in any given week and board members are usually assigned multiple committees to attend. Also, the possibility exists that three members of the Republican caucus could threaten to vote with the Democratic caucus creating a tie vote holding hostage the county board on a given issue, which was almost impossible with a 28 member county board. Also, budget amendments currently require a two-thirds vote, which may need to be amended, so that the hostage scenario may be less likely to occur. Rather than leading to a more efficient process, this decision might lead to inefficiencies due to unintended consequences reminiscent of the new Winnebago County Forest Preserve District....

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