Madison County voters asked about Illinois lawmaker raises, double dipping

Madison County voters asked about Illinois lawmaker raises, double dipping

Two advisory ballot initiatives will ask Madison County voters about automatic raises for lawmakers and public worker double dipping.

Madison County voters will be asked about lowering their property taxes Nov. 3, but they also will be asked their opinions about automatic raises for state lawmakers as well as about drawing a government salary while collecting a government pension.

The first countywide advisory referendum asks whether state lawmakers should receive raises, a sore spot for many Illinoisans who are suffering through wage and job loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the government response to it. More than 650,000 Illinoisans are looking for work as of September, according to the most recent Illinois Department of Employment Security data.

The question reads: “Shall members of the Illinois General Assembly change state law to stop automatic annual salary increases for legislators?”

Illinois lawmakers are legally set to receive automatic raises from the 2020 budget. While the Illinois comptroller has said she would not pay it, and the General Assembly did not appropriate funds for the raises, the budget the legislature passed into law gives legislators an $1,800 raise.

Besides those out of work as a result of COVID-19, the state is facing lost revenues and possibly a junk credit rating. Members of the General Assembly automatically receive raises according to rates that were set by the now-defunctCompensation Review Board.

The other Madison County advisory referendum is about what is known as pension double dipping, or drawing a public pension while earning a salary from another government job or contract.

One Illinois lawmaker called the practice outrageous. “They’re exploiting a loophole in the system that allows them to artificially inflate their earnings,” state Rep. Daniel Didech, D-Buffalo Grove, told the Daily Herald. Didech is a sponsor of anti-double dipping legislation.

Pensions are one of the main drivers of rising property taxes. Madison County homeowners might want to pay attention to the ways that double dipping could affect their tax bills.

According to the initiative’s resolution, “there are many current employees and office holders serving Madison County who are presently drawing a pension from prior service to Madison County in another position.” The question asks, “Shall retired Madison County employees and officials drawing a pension be permitted to also draw a salary for service in another position as an employee, official, or independent contractor of Madison County?”

Both of these questions are nonbinding advisory questions used to gauge public sentiment.

Madison County residents who are not yet registered to vote can still do so, and let their government leaders know their opinions on these issues as well as the binding question about lowering the property tax rate for county government from 0.20% to 0.18% of the property’s equalized assessed valuation, an 11% decrease in the county’s levy.

Illinois offers same-day registration, meaning those wanting to vote can go to their polling place through Election Day, register to vote with a photo ID and proof of current address such as a utility bill, and then cast their votes.

Voters on Nov. 3 also can tell state leaders whether they are willing to shoulder a $3 billion state income tax hike. The question asks to amend the Illinois Constitution and eliminate the flat tax protection, which mandates that if one person’s taxes are raised, then everyone’s taxes are raised at the same rate.

Eliminating that protection is seen as a way for state lawmakers to divide up Illinoisans and tax smaller groups without facing the political backlash they now receive when everyone’s taxes are raised.

Progressive tax rates, which Gov. J.B. Pritzker is pushing as his “fair tax,” are seen as needed before retirement income can be taxed in Illinois and before city income taxes can begin. The average Illinois retiree would pay $2,482 under the rates already passed by state lawmakers were the “fair tax” to pass and retirement taxes imposed.

The proposed “fair tax” rates would also increase taxes up to 47% on more than 100,000 small business just as they try to recover from COVID-19. The proposal offers no property tax relief, despite advertising claims and Pritzker’s promise to state lawmakers as he gathered support to put the scheme on the Nov. 3 ballot.

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