Graphic courtesy of the Illinois Policy Institute

By John Ruberry

On Thursday the Democratic-dominated Illinois House, with aid of ten Republicans, overrode Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of a 32 percent income tax hike. The corporate rate jumped by 35 percent.

Apologists for the income tax increase love to point out that many states have higher income tax rates, but last week’s override places Illinois within the top 20 of the 50 states. And these tax lovers always leave out some painful facts. For instance, while sales tax rates vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, Illinois’ sales tax rates are very high across the board. Chicagoans, at 10.25 percent, pay America’s highest sales taxes. And depending on who you talk to, Illinoisans suffer under America’s largest property tax burden–or they are near the top. Chicagoans deal also suffer with nuisance taxes such as a seven-cents-per-bag tax at grocery stores, and had a judge not temporarily struck down a Cook County–where Chicago is–a penny-per-ounce sugary drink tax would be in place right now. Food stamp recipients don’t have to pay those last two. And those nuisance taxes add up, of course.

As a lifetime resident of Illinois, I can assure you that the services we receive from the state are terrible. Last year the Chicago Tribune phrased it more eloquently, “As a result, Illinois government is a massive retirement system that, during work hours, also offers some services.”

Illinois’ personal income tax rate is now at 4.95 percent and the corporate rate is now 7 percent, but because of a local only-in-Illinois 2.5 percent state personal property replacement tax, the corporate rate is really 9.5 percent, which makes the overall rate the fourth-highest in the nation.

And before these tax hikes Illinois was one of the few states losing population.

So ends the Prairie State’s national record two-year span of operating without a budget.

“Shake Up Springfield, Bring Back Illinois”

Governor Rauner, a Republican, was elected by voters to, as his campaign slogan vowed, “Shake Up Springfield.” While never averse to a tax increase, Rauner, who never held public office before, said he’d approve one as long as it included such items as term limits, redistricting reform, workers’ compensation law changes, and property tax freezes. House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), who has held his job for 32 of the last 34 years, of course views term limits as anathema to him, and this master gerrymanderer created legislative maps that gave the Democrats supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly in the first two years of Rauner’s term. The Dems still have a veto-proof majority in the Senate.

One of the reasons the Republican General Assembly members who sided with Madigan gave for their votes was that Moody’s and S&P warned that if Illinois didn’t have a budget in place for fiscal year 2018 its bonds would be rated as junk. Guess what? Moody’s says it might downgrade Illinois’ bonds anyway. The new taxes don’t address how Illinois will tackle its $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Pension payments already consume a whopping one-quarter of the Illinois budget. And even assuming enough funds are there for Illinois schools to open in the fall, more legislation is needed for allocating that cash. The state has over $15 billion in unpaid bills-which is over 40 percent of the ’18 budget. That backlog will take years to pay off. Adding to the debacle is a late June ruling by a federal judge for Illinois to pay $586 million per month to bring down its past-due Medicaid bills. Which means that other vendors will have to wait even longer to get paid. How many of them will go out of business waiting for their bills to be settled?

Didn’t I mention that Illinois is losing population?

Blogger at the border

At best, the Illinois budget deal is a band-aid for much more serious problems.

Rauner is a candidate for reelection in 2018. That task was made more difficult by the manner that the tax hike was passed. In the first go-round 15 Republicans–the Madigan 15–voted for the tax hike. That allowed Boss Madigan, who has been chairman of the state Democratic Party since 1998, to allow, yes, allow 11 Democrats in vulnerable districts to vote “No.” In the override vote, four of the Madigan 15 voted “No.” Another one missed the roll call. Of course Madigan “found” the other five votes among his caucus.

Democratic candidates for governor are of course calling the tax increase “bi-partisan.”

But already one Madigan 15 member has announced he’s not running for reelection.

In my opinion bankruptcy, even though it will be called something else, is still coming to Illinois, despite this budget “fix.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Chief Inspector: Now, I know what you’re going to say, but the fact is, you’ve been making us all look bad.
PC Nicholas Angel: I’m sorry, sir?
Chief Inspector: Of course we all appreciate your efforts, but you’ve been rather letting the side down. It’s all about being a team player, Nicholas. You can’t be the Sheriff of London. If we let you carry on running round town, you’ll continue to be exceptional and we can’t have that. You’ll put us all out of a job.

Hot Fuzz 2007

Yesterday I did my annual tax walk though, that is I did my taxes in pencil not finalizing anything and will now do my ritual of waiting about a week and then re-doing them in pen double checking everything with a fresh set of eyes to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  Then once I have the federal taxes done It’s time for my state taxes.

Of course that’s not been a bad thing.  One of the few plus sides over the last few years has been the Massachusetts online filing system, as a person who was once a computer programmer I was astounded at how well written it was, how easy it was to use.  As I wrote back in 2013

If you qualify (and odds are you will) you can e-file through the site for free and the e-file system is elegant and easy.

You can save easily, jump back easily, double-check easily and before you submit see a PDF version as if you had filed by paper.

I have a lot of words to say when the state does something wrong, so I’m obliged to say something when they do something right.

When it comes to online filing, Mass DOR does it right, take a bow.

So naturally Massachusetts, having developed a system that was elegant, easy to use and helpful to tax filers has decided to do away with it.

Massachusetts has joined a growing number of states that have ditched their free online tax-filing system, pushing residents to use software developed by private companies, and in some cases to pay for it.

Thousands of Massachusetts taxpayers who have been submitting their state tax returns through Webfile for Income, a system in use since 2009, will this year be directed to a coalition of tax-preparation software companies instead.

Massachusetts joined the Virginia-based Free File Alliance last fall, and this marks the first full tax season that the state’s tax filers will be using the new system. State officials anticipate that Free File Alliance will save the state money and improve the security of tax returns.

Are you kidding me?

You had  a system so good that even I, a big fan of paper filing was actually pleased to use your online system and you decide to ditch it?  Furthermore it’s one thing to have the government, who already has access to my tax into have access to it, now I’m expected to use other companies and perhaps their servers and give them access to my info?

Not this Sicilian.

So this year my state tax form will, like my federal form, be filed on paper, yes it will slow down my refund, but it’s a small price to pay for keeping my tax info between me and the state and if it means an additional expense for the state to process the form, well that’s just life.

I wish I could say I was surprised at this development but after all why should the tax filing system be user friendly and efficient when the rest of state government isn’t?

The worst part of the Trump tax story is what it doesn’t to the favorite meme of the left.

We are constantly told that the rich need to pay “Their fair share” in taxes and Democrats constantly use that line to justify all kinds of tax increases that affect the rich and middle class alike.

With that 35 Million figure it’s going to be pretty hard for the left to argue that President Trump doesn’t pay his fair share particularly since that figure doesn’t count state taxes, local taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes, excise taxes, sales taxes, personal property taxes and any of the assorted fees that he might be required to pay.

So the question on the table for Rachel Maddow and the left:

How much of someone else’s money do you have to take from someone before they’ve paid “their fair share”?

Take your time.

Exit questions:

  1. If the left considers it legit to leak Trump’s taxes illegally does that mean it’s open season on anyone they consider the enemy?

  2. Will reporters start complaining when their tax returns start leaking?

We have been seeing a lot of open bitterness between liberal actors who supported (or settled for Hillary Clinton) and paying audience members who supported (or settled for) Donald Trump.

So being a fan of compromise between actors worried about being triggered by the sight of audience members who they disagree with and audience members who don’t want to be lectured from the stage let me make the following proposal that we can all get behind.

The “Hamilton” Infrastructure Ticket SurTax.

I propose an Excise Tax of 100% on any ticket to a play or show that sells for $100 or more (including reseller fees) with such dollars being directed toward infrastructure development.

This is a tax that everybody should love, For the right it not only provides a funding mechanism for proposed spending rather than just spending it also directs the majority of the funding toward those voices on the left who have been insisting for years that they don’t mind being taxed, taking them at their word not to mention

Meanwhile our liberal Friends should love this tax for several reasons:

  • It funds infrastructure which is always a big issue for the left.
  • It is a tax specifically directed to the top 1% since it is only applied to tickets above the $100 level thus ensuring the rich pay their “fair share”.
  • and most importantly it exponentially decreases the chances that any performer might risk being triggered by the sight of those plebes in anything but the nosebleed seats that we’ve been reliably informed is all, in a best case scenario, Trump voters can’t afford anyway.

It also provides two excellent incentives

  1. It provides innovation for producers worried about the effect of such a tax on sales to come up with low cost creative alternatives say a flat fee streaming service for people to see plays or a regularly scheduled monthly performance where all seats are under $100 meaning actors would have warning and time to prepare before the traumatic triggering experience of facing an audience of the Hoi Polloi.
  2. It provides an incentive for the good government types on the left who unexpected had no problem with the IRS targeting conservatives over the last few years to rediscover their dislike of a government targeting their political enemies.

The “Hamilton” Infrastructure Ticket surtax, an idea whose time has come!


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By John Ruberry

Last night the New York Times, using an illegally obtained copy of Donald Trump’s 1995 tax return, speculated that because of a $916 million loss listed on that return, the Republican nominee may have, yes, may have, avoided paying federal income taxes for 18 years.

With help from his wealthy father, not the government, Trump, a real estate developer, built an international business empire. And because of his Apprentice television franchise, even before his presidential run Trump was likely the most recognized business person in the United States.

Hillary Clinton is also rich. Her business–make that racket–is influence peddling. While her husband was attorney general, and then governor of Arkansas, Clinton was an attorney at the Rose Law Firm in that state’s capital city. The Clintons, aided by the Rose Law Firm, used its clout to protect themselves and Jim and Susan McDougal, their investment partners. While they didn’t make money in Whitewater, Arkansas’ first couple did their best to cover up the Whitewater scandal, which led to the convictions the McDougals, Bill’s successor as governor, and Webster Hubbell, a partner at the Rose Law Firm and a close friend of the Clintons.arkansas-sign

The McDougals ran Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan in Little Rock, which failed in the 1980s. They chose, of course, the Rose Law Firm to defend their thrift.

After emerging from the White House “dead broke,” the Clintons were still able to purchase a mansion in Westchester County, New York, one of the most expensive real estate markets in the nation. In 2001 the Clinton Foundation was formed, by this time of course Hillary was a US Senator from New York. The foundation traded off of Bill’s status as an ex-president–six-figure public speaking fees to him went to this “charity,” which offered high-priced salaries to Clinton family cronies and served as a lucrative waiting room for those Clintonistas between government jobs.

The former first couple learned that influence peddling, not property investments, was their pathway to wealth.

While Hillary was serving as Barack Obama’s secretary of state, foreign donors poured money into the “charity,” probably using their cash as down payments for favors from Madame Secretary. It worked. A majority of the non-governmental meetings Hillary had at State were with Clinton Foundation donors, which is why the foundation is commonly referred to as a slush fund.

In Illinois, where Hillary grew up, that’s called pay-to-play.

John ruberry
John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

There’s nothing like this type of sordidness in Trump’s background.

After leaving State, it was Hillary’s turn to collect the big-money speeches, with Wall Street firms being some of her most lucrative clients. Without having been a major government figure–or the spouse of one–Clinton’s speech income just might have matched that of a Times Square busker, such as the Naked Cowboy.

In 2014 just 5.7 percent of the Clinton Foundation budget was spent on charitable grants.

Where is that story, New York Times?

Oh, do you know anyone who doesn’t try to pay as little income tax as possible?

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

 

 

Every year between January and April Americans see ads like this:

From tax preparation companies and ads like this

from tax software companies

As a person who has done their own federal taxes on paper without using tax preparation software as my mother taught me and has no interest in sharing my tax numbers with anyone else such ads have no interest to me, but to most Americans the selling point of these ads is the ability of either the professionals at H & R block or Turbo Tax to make sure that their customers get every deduction that they are legally allowed to take.

Now picture if those ads were different.

What if that Turbo Tax ad instead of saying “In her case yes the amount goes right here” when asked about a load deduction said: “In her case yes but we at Turbo Tax aren’t going to apply it because we want to help you to be a patriotic American who pays her fair share of taxes.”

What if that H & R Block ad instead of saying “Nobody gets more of your money back then Block, guaranteed.” said “Nobody makes sure you pay your fair share of taxes like Block, guaranteed.”

Or picture going to your local accountant who instead of promising to get you the best refund they legally could promised to make sure you paid your fair share of taxes.

Would you pay any of those people to do your taxes?

Of course not! That’s idiocy.

It’s a fair critique to say that Donald Trump is the first major presidential candidate to not release his taxes in 40 years and if you object to that failure, that’s fine.

But to critique Donald Trump for employing accountants who take every tax deduction specifically allowed under US law, that’s simply nuts.

FYI I’d be interested in hearing how many members of the MSM employ such civic minded accountants. Maybe they can provide us with a list.


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Come to Draft Town
Draft Town billbard, Chicago

By John Ruberry

Deadly shootings in Chicago are up 20 percent this year over 2015. Last year Rahm Emanuel and the exclusively-Democratic City Council stuck it to Chicagoans by enacting the city’s biggest property tax in history to pay for municipal worker pensions–with probably more hikes to come. Chicago’s population decline continues, the onetime Second City is now third, with Houston within reach to pass it.

How does Rahm Emanuel respond?

With Roman style bread and circuses.

Two weeks ago the NFL draft was held in downtown Chicago for the second straight year–accompanied by an elaborate Draft Town festival.

And like the bounty hunters who doggedly pursued Han Solo in Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, Rahm desperately wants to plop the proposed George Lucas museum on Chicago’s Lakefront despite opposition from preservation groups and a federal judge. Chicago was Lucas’ second choice for his temple, plans for a San Francisco museum fell through two years ago. The filmmaker’s ties to Chicago are at best tenuous. He married his second wife, a Chicago native, on the lakefront a few miles south of the proposed museum site. Oh, Harrison Ford, who played Solo, was born in Chicago and he grew up in suburban Morton Grove, where your humble blogger lives.

Lake Michigan in Chicago
Lake Michigan in Chicago

Meanwhile the carnage in Chicago continues. Last night a man eating dinner was shot to death while eating dinner when someone fired into his Southwest Side home. Early this morning a passenger in a car was murdered when he was shot on Lake Shore Drive. Another man was shot on the same road, albeit not fatally, two days earlier.

Oh, I almost forgot. Chicago anemic school system, which kind-of-sort-of educates children, is essentially insolvent.

Meanwhile Mayor Emanuel cries out with a Hail Mary pass, “Help us Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit

Grixdale
Grixdale

By John Ruberry

Type “Detroit revival” or “Detroit comeback” into your Google search box and you’ll collect a lot of hits and discover glowing yarns about the turnaround of what was once one of America’s greatest cities. Here’s one from Forbes just last week. There is even a Pure Michigan TV commercial about Detroit.

But as John Adams once famously wrote, “Facts are stubborn things.”

Yes, there is a Detroit bounceback underway but it is centered in downtown and the neighborhoods that border it. That’s it.

Then there are the facts.

The fiscal year for Detroit Public Schools ends on June 30. On July 1 there is no money for summer school or physical upkeep, unless the state rushes in for a rescue. Such a rescue should not be confused with a proposed $720 million one that will deal with DPS’ long-term debt.

Adding an exclamation point to the problems of DPS last week was a former school principal who pleaded guilty to accepting kickbacks from an allegedly crooked supplier. A dozen other DPS officials, most of them former principals, have also been charged with collecting kickbacks.

Abandoned Detroit school
Abandoned Detroit school

When I visited Detroit last summer I ventured into the neighborhoods outside of its downtown ring. Places like Grixdale. This is a typical 21st century Grixdale block that in 1950 that had twenty homes each with wage earners with fat wallets: Two occupied homes, two abandoned homes, the rest are rubbished filled vacant lots with coarse weeds.

Detroit has some millstones that will impede its recovery. Its commercial property tax rates are the highest in the nation and city services are substandard. Detroiters are burdened with a municipal income tax and possible future Detroit residents who want to dip their toe in the Motor City water by taking a job in the city are subject to a commuter tax. And Detroit is still a very violent city.

Just last week a study was released that discovered that Detroit has the least storefront concentration of any big city.

Look for the Detroit comeback, such as it is, to proceed very slowly.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

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By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – It would seem that Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is off to a rather rocky start as he goes up against the majority Republican Legislature. It appears that the Republicans aren’t going to make life easy for Edwards.

On the campaign trail, Edwards wrapped himself in moderate clothes and won the votes of many Republicans; some of that, in part, was due to the fact that voting for David Vitter was just a peg too far. Many people believed Edwards when he promised to get rid of state education Superintendent John White, a proponent of Common Core.  That is not likely to happen now as Edwards has stacked the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education with White supporters.

Edwards won’t be fighting Common Core any longer either as just last week his office announced that he would no longer pursue the Jindal lawsuit against Common Core. Edwards says that the lawsuit is financially and educationally unnecessary as Louisiana has worked to rewrite the standards.

Immediately after that announcement, the Louisiana Attorney General, Republican Jeff Landry released a statement saying that as Attorney General, he is intervening in that case and only he will decide if that lawsuit goes forward or not, indicating that he is the one, and not the governor, who decides the legal course for the state.

Gov. Edwards has called for a Special Session of the Legislature later this month for the purpose of resolving the looming budget shortfall left by the Jindal administration. Edwards has laid out a staggering list of potential tax increases to solve the problem.  All of the usual tax increases are there including raising taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, income, utilities, property, and so on.

There are no proposals for welfare reform or to cut unnecessary staff and crony positions. As a matter of fact, those Jindal era staff salaries that Edwards criticized on the campaign trail?  He’s keeping those and raising them some.

Again, with a Republican-dominated Legislature, this Special Session wish list might just be a pipe dream, but if nothing else, Gov. Edwards has shown in just a few short weeks his true colors and any Republican that pulled the lever for him, thinking they were getting a moderate Democrat who shared their values, has been proven to be delusional.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

Don Fanucci:  This is my neighborhood. You and your friends should show me some respect. You should let me wet my beak a little. I hear you and your friends cleared $600 each. Give me $200 each, for your own protection. And I’ll forget the insult.

The Godfather part 2 1974

Monday evening I was grabbing something at the supermarket when I noticed a headline at the Boston Globe concerning the safety of e cigarettes. As that story is behind a subscription wall I bring you this report from the Washington Examiner instead:

A majority of people say in a new poll that e-cigarettes are harmful to health and should be subject to strict regulations that tobacco cigarettes now face.

The poll, released Monday by Harvard and the Boston Globe’s Stat news service, comes as federal regulators are finalizing a slew of regulations for the burgeoning e-cigarette industry.

Now the first thing that jumped out at me was: WHO CARES?

In terms of evaluating any drug for safety the question isn’t what the general public thinks, the question is what do we actually know.

Now ecigs contain nicotine so if the government wants to judge their safety based on the known risks of nicotine that’s perfectly legit.

But these polls aren’t about public safety, or the data, it’s all about justifying a tax on a product so that the government bureaucracy can wet it’s beak.

The difference between Don Fanucci & the government is Fanucci doesn’t pretend it’s not about feathering his nest.