How sneaky can the Illinois General Assembly get?
Very sneaky, it seems.
The 2 percent collection fee imposed on local units of government that have imposed sales taxes above 6.25 percent is a case in point.
This 2 percent collection fee was never around before the state budget package the Legislature approved over Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto this past summer.
But some legislators snuck it in to the budget deal to generate even more money for the state.
A cool $60 million a year that local governments across Illinois would have ordinarily collected is being siphoned off by those sneaks in Springfield.
The justification is that the state must collect the extra sales taxes above and beyond the 6.25 percent that is charged everywhere, so it should be able to grab a chunk for itself.
The only trouble is, local governments, like cities and schools, really need the extra sales tax revenue that they went out and persuaded local taxpayers to impose upon themselves through referendums.
Those extra sales tax dollars are helping cities to fund street repairs, infrastructure repairs, and public safety activities.
They’re helping school districts to fix up attendance centers and provide other needed maintenance to buildings and grounds.
Local officials across Illinois went to bat for the increased local sales tax rates, not because they love increasing taxes, but because the state wasn’t forthcoming with money it should have been forwarding to municipalities and schools all along – not just during the 2-year budget stalemate, but even before that.
Tired of waiting for the state to fork over what it owed them, local leaders rallied support from voters to boost sales taxes to fund necessary projects.
And now, the state has the gall to sneakily swipe some of that money for itself?!
Money that was raised from local taxpayers to make up for money the state held back?!
No wonder people from localities have raised a ruckus.
No wonder some state politician is trying to portray himself as riding to the rescue.
In this case, it is state Rep. Anthony DeLuca, a Chicago Heights Democrat, who is proposing a solution.
Rep. DeLuca said the 2 percent collection should be cut in half.
Under his proposal, the state would charge only a 1 percent collection fee, and municipalities and schools would get to keep the other 1 percent.
Before anyone starts to think this is a good idea, consider the thief who steals $60 from you, but then after you complain loudly, gives $30 of it back.
Are you supposed to be thankful and happy to get half your money back? Or are you rightfully upset that the thief still has $30 of your money?
DeLuca thinks it’s OK for the state to give back $30 million in sales tax collection fees, and it’s also OK for the state to keep the other $30 million.
Folks, this is not a magnanimous gesture.
It’s the sneak thief giving back part of the money he swiped and keeping the rest.
Here’s a better idea, Rep. DeLuca.
Eliminate the collection fee altogether.
Require the state to give back ALL the money generated by its bogus collection fee.
This is the same government, mind you, that just increased the state income tax on individuals from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent, and on corporations from 5.25 percent to 7 percent.
So a lot more money is rolling into state coffers.
Those who lead the Legislature should have been satisfied with that massive infusion of cash, but instead, they had to carry the heist further by swiping an additional $60 million a year from local governments with a sneaky new fee.
Illinois legislative leaders don’t deserve any awards for honesty, accountability or responsiveness to the will of the people.
But when it comes to sneakiness, they win, hands down.