Speaker’s firm represents big property owners
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s official schedule for Thursday said he would be in Country Club Hills talking with homeowners and business owners about property taxes.
That wasn’t necessarily surprising. Rauner has pressed for property tax relief since forever, and he has a State of the State speech coming up. The event looked like a way for the governor to give a sneak peek of sorts on the upcoming speech and that he would once again be calling on lawmakers to do property tax relief.
But then Rauner threw a curve at the event. Instead of focusing on property tax relief per se, he said he’ll push legislation to ban lawmakers from doing property tax appeals legal work and that in the interim, he’ll pursue that through an executive order.
It could also be called the “Stop House Speaker Michael Madigan’s Outside Source of Income Act of 2018.” Because make no mistake about it, this was aimed directly at Madigan, whose law practice involves handling property tax appeals for big-time property owners in Chicago’s Loop.
Now the idea that the Democratic-controlled Legislature will pass a law to prohibit Madigan’s tax appeal business is beyond far-fetched.
But Rauner would be just as happy to simply have the issue unresolved so he can continue to hammer Madigan about it.
There are also serious questions whether Rauner has the legal authority to issue an executive order on this issue. Which means this could be yet another thing that spends years in the court system waiting to get resolved.
“This is corruption at its core. This is part of the core corruption of the state of Illinois that’s been going on for decades,” Rauner said on the idea of lawmakers doing property tax appeals cases.
ALSO FROM THE world of “are you kidding me” comes the state Board of Education asking to double the amount of money K-12 schools get from the state. That’s close to an $8 billion increase in one year.
It’s what the state board says is needed to ensure all 800-plus school districts have at least 90 percent of the resources they need to provide every student with an adequate education. Right now there are districts that can’t even muster 50 percent.
Is there any chance schools will get that much money?
State revenues aren’t even expected to grow by $1 billion next year. To give education everything it is requesting would require catastrophic cuts to other parts of the budget.
The point is, the request underscores just how poorly the state funds education now, and how much ground needs to be made up to make the system fair for everyone.
Rauner said last week that he will recommend another spending increase for schools in his next budget that he’ll present Feb. 14.
He said it will be a continuation of his efforts to continually increase resources for K-12 education every year.
That’s all fine, but increasing education funding in his budget proposal this year will be interesting on its face, since Rauner has also called for lawmakers to repeal the income tax increase from last summer. That would seem to leave a large hole that would have to be filled somehow.
Then again, Rauner also said the state didn’t need to increase the income tax in order to give more money to schools. That’s technically true, although it’s not clear how the additional money for schools would have been accounted for.
The mysteries of budgeting are many and deep.
“I pushed to change the funding formula. My administration fought for that new funding bill,” Rauner said, on the school funding reform bill that passed last year, a take that is not shared by all of the proponents of funding reform.