5 ways Amendment 1 is a property tax hike

5 ways Amendment 1 is a property tax hike

Amendment 1 would likely result in a $2,100 tax hike for the typical Illinois homeowner, thanks to increased government union power to demand more.

Amendment 1 would open Illinoisans up to a barrage of property tax hikes, conservatively estimated at more than $2,100 per family during the next four years simply by maintaining Illinois’ status quo.

But if government union bosses exercise the boosted powers granted through Amendment 1, the tax hike on Illinoisans could be far more.

Proponents of the “Workers’ Rights Amendment” have spent millions on misleading TV ads to promote Amendment 1 as essential to protecting the working conditions and benefits of Illinois’ government union workers. However, Illinois already gives more leverage to government union workers during contract negotiations than most other states. As a result, government sector wages have grown 60% faster than the private sector in Illinois from 1998 to 2019.

Supporters have failed to disclose Amendment 1 would grant government union bosses the most extreme powers in the nation, including the ability to override state law. If Amendment 1 passes, Illinoisans would be forced to fund the ever-increasing cost of these provisions.

Illinois’ property taxes have consistently grown faster than taxpayers’ ability to pay for them. If property tax rates continue to increase at their long-run rates, the typical Illinois homeowner, with a home currently valued at approximately $248,000, would see a $2,100 property tax increase.

Here are five ways Illinoisans can expect to pay higher taxes were voters Nov. 8 to approve Amendment 1:

1. Amendment 1 would allow government unions to make demands outside the normal scope of bargaining

Simply put, Amendment 1 would broadly expand the subjects government worker unions can bargain over, and taxpayers would be asked to pay for them.

The right to negotiate in Illinois is already quite broad. Negotiations between the unions representing state and local government workers, including teachers, cover wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment. Unlike most of our neighboring states, there are no limits to the wages and benefits government unions can demand.

But Amendment 1 expands bargaining to encompass broad new subjects, including “economic welfare” and “safety at work.” There is no definition or case law explaining what those terms mean. They could encompass virtually anything. The Chicago Teachers Union has already tried to negotiate broad, non-traditional “economic” subjects into their contract with Chicago Public Schools, such as affordable housing.

What’s more, bargaining over more subjects can take longer. Negotiations themselves also cost money, and the longer they last, the more money they cost.

As the list of demands government unions can make grows, Illinois taxpayers would be tasked with footing the bill for these new costs. States with more powerful government employee unions have both higher property tax rates and greater debt burdens.

2. Amendment 1 would grant government unions the permanent right to strike if their demands are not met

Amendment 1 grants government unions a permanent right to strike. They would be able to walk out on Illinois residents for a growing number of reasons, denying them needed services if their demands aren’t met.

Allowing government unions to walk out on those relying on their services can leave many communities vulnerable. It is one of the reasons every neighboring state prohibits strikes for most or all government workers.

A government worker strike is different than a strike in the private sector. When government worker unions threaten to strike, they are threatening to shut down government functions and deprive residents of necessary services. It isn’t the party sitting on the other side of the negotiating table, such as the governor or a school board, that directly bears the harm – it is the residents.

The power to strike is not merely theoretical. It plays out across the state regularly:

  • In each of the past three school years, the Chicago Teachers Union walked out on parents and students, at times giving them only hours notice before school was canceled. That’s in addition to strikes in both 2019 and 2012.
  • In May 2017, faculty at the University of Illinois-Springfield walked out on students just one week before finals.
  • In February 2017, Illinois’ largest government workers union – representing 35,000 state workers across Illinois – authorized a strike if Gov. Bruce Rauner attempted to implement a contract the union didn’t like.
  • In September 2016, teachers in Champaign voted in favor of a strike after students were already in school for the year.

Even if government leaders don’t want to cave to the demands of government union bosses, they would be at a significant disadvantage at the bargaining table under Amendment 1 because of the permanent right to strike. The threat of strikes would make it increasingly likely taxpayers would be asked to pay higher taxes to cover more expensive government union demands.

3. Amendment 1 would make taxpayer-friendly reforms less likely

Government unions have consistently used their influence to thwart legislation that could have improved the quality of public services or provide tax relief.

Most recently, in 2021, the Illinois House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation that could have freed up over $700 million in annual school district administrative costs. Allowing voters to consolidate school districts would let that money be re-invested in the classroom. However, the bill was opposed by more than 110 school district administrators making six-figure salaries, while the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers mobilized against this bill, even though it could have diverted money from school district-level administration to classrooms and salaries of the teachers those unions represent.

Government unions have also been the largest roadblock to pension reform in Illinois, despite Illinois’ public retirement systems shouldering hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of debt and threatening members’ retirement security through insolvency.

In 2013, Illinois lawmakers took action to reduce the future growth in pension benefits, without reducing any earned benefits for retirees or current workers. Public Act 98-0599, resulting from the passage of Senate Bill 1, was originally filed by Democratic Senate President John Cullerton, sponsored by Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan and signed by then-Gov. Pat Quinn, also a Democrat. The reform would have ensured the retirement security of pensioners without reducing earned benefits for workers and saved taxpayers billions of dollars annually.

While it was ultimately determined the 2013 reform would require changing the state constitution to be legal, government union leaders have continued to voice opposition to pension reform despite support of these reforms from rank-and-file members.

Government unions have also consistently opposed proposals to make Illinois’ 6,000 units of local government – the most of any state in the nation – more efficient.

Should Amendment 1 pass, government unions would be bolstered by powers newly enshrined in the state constitution that would make them the most powerful in the nation. These newfound powers would embolden government unions to continue to create barriers to reforms that could alleviate Illinois second-highest in the nation property taxes.

4. Amendment 1 would ensure core services continue to suffer

For more than two decades, Illinois has experienced a disinvestment in higher education, public safety, public health programs, and vital services for vulnerable Illinoisans and low-income families despite the increasing cost of state government.

Since 2000, total inflation-adjusted state spending has grown by 21%, however that growth has been funneled to select areas of the state budget. Spending on public pensions has exploded 584%, and spending on government worker health insurance grew 107%. Meanwhile, spending on education rose just 25% and spending on all other core government services fell by 20%. Today, pensions consume more than 25% of the state budget.

Without significant reform, Illinoisans can continue to expect to pay more and get less. Peer-reviewed research shows stronger government worker unions cause the cost of government to increase, with powerful unions putting even more upward pressure on benefits than on wages. Public retirement benefits, which flow mostly to union workers, have left Illinois’ local governments with $75 billion in pension debt and are already the primary cause of rising property taxes. Government unions helped Illinois politicians build the state and local pension crisis by supporting both unaffordable benefits as well as irresponsible funding games that pushed costs into the future.

As Amendment 1 reduces the likelihood of much-needed taxpayer reforms, Illinoisans’ prospects for tax relief are also diminished. Instead, property taxes can be expected to rise.

5. Amendment 1 will foster more corruption  

Illinois and Chicago have a justly earned reputations as two of the most corrupt places in the nation. Corruption has cost Illinois nearly $10.6 billion in foregone economic activity during the past two decades, effectively translating to higher taxes on law-abiding citizens.

Amendment 1 would further bolster corrupt activity between Illinois politicians and unions at taxpayer expense.

One of the key sponsors of Amendment 1 was former state Sen. Thomas Cullerton, who was sentenced June 21 to one year in federal prison for embezzling nearly $250,000 from Teamsters Local 734. In March, Cullerton pleaded guilty to accepting payments for a fraudulent job entailing little to no work for the union.

While Cullerton didn’t complete any work in an official capacity for the union, he did take action to greatly increase union power in Illinois by pushing Amendment 1 in the General Assembly. He’s one of eight former General Assembly members to face federal charges in the past three years. Many other state and local government officials and union political actors have been indicted or investigated in recent years as well.

But it’s not just illegal corruption that runs rampant in Illinois: the state has some of the highest levels of legal corruption in the nation. Legal corruption refers to legal establishments such as aldermanic privilege that give aldermen total control over ward matters, gerrymandering that allows elected officials to draw maps that favor their re-election, procedural rules that give unchecked power to the House speaker and ethics laws that allow legislators to double as property tax appeals attorneys or leave public service one day and return to lobby their former peers the next.

Cumbersome and highly restrictive governments such as those in Illinois foster environments where corruption festers. They give greater authority to legislators and make collusion between unions and legislators more likely, because excessive regulation affects union activities and opportunities.

With greater union influence in state and local governments thanks to Amendment 1, Illinois’ culture of corruption can be expected to flourish. Ultimately, taxpayers would pay the cost of this corruption through both higher consumer prices and taxes from the misuse and misallocation of resources.

Amendment 1 will lead to higher taxes

Amendment 1 is a referendum on taxes in Illinois more than anything else. One conservative estimate is Amendment 1 would virtually guarantee higher property taxes of more than $2,100 during the next four years, simply by maintaining Illinois’ status quo. Should government union bosses exercise new powers granted through Amendment 1, the tax hike on Illinoisans could wind up being far more costly.

The measure would allow government unions to make demands outside the normal scope of bargaining, strike if their demands are not met, thwart simple, pro-taxpayer reforms, crowd out government services for special interest causes and exacerbate corruption in Illinois.

That endless loop of unlimited union demands, higher government costs and rising taxes is likely why no other state has a similar amendment.

Illinois voters have a decision to make before Nov. 8: either they can vote to fund the never-ending demands of government union bosses, or they can send a message by saying “no” to more tax increases in Illinois.

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