Monday, December 26, 2005

Contracts with Illinois

I think Eric Krol wrote this in the Dec 23, 2005 Daily Herald, (Krol's byline missing on the electronic version)

Here's your 2006 Illinois political preview. Next year's election largely will be determined by two factors: U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and the war in Iraq.
and devotes the balance of a good column working out the consequences.

Problem is both of these issues don't deal directly with Illinois's problems. So let's speculate if both become non-issues in the next few months.

I commented in an earlier post in Illinoize that I had read Major Garrett's Enduring Revolutionon; How the Contract with America Continues to Shape the Nation and wondered what a republican contract with Illinois today might look like. Extreme Wisdom responded back suggesting for starters,

1. Constitutional Changes

a)A SPENDING CAP on all State & Local Government funds (Inflation+Population Growth)

2. Conversion of all Pensions to "Definecontributionon" (Defined Benefit is unsustainable)

3. Binding Referenda/Initiatives - allowing voters to bypass our ossified & sclerotipoliticalal class.

A Bold Education/Tax Reform Plan

1. Abolition of Local Property tax for schools and education being funded 100% from the State, with an inflation indexed scholarship for each child - chosen by the family

2. Abolition of the School District and conversion of every school to an Independent Charter.
This post by Jeff Trigg that 64% of General Assembly races unopposed has been on my mind too, so let me suggest another piece of a contract here a long the lines of California's recently voted down Proposition 77 on redistricting.

I'm not certain what the Republicans will think of Extreme Wisdom and myself writing contracts for them, so why note ask the readers to write the contracts for the Democrats, Libertarians, and Greens too.

The contracts might come in handy for thinking about Illinois should Iraq's elections bring stability and Fitzgerald springs no surprizes.

All I ask is keep the ideas specific as something that could be turned easily into legislation. And while pledging no new taxes tells use what a party won't do, it's really nice to hear what the party expects too do given whatever budget limits they set up for themselves.

So if taxes aren't part of your solution, tell us how you'll solve Illinois's problems without increasing them. If you plan to spend a lot of money to solve problems, you better tell us how you'll pay for that too.

Interesting topic I hope for those of you on Christmas - New Years vacations.

Cross Posted at Bill Baar's West Side


Black Libertarian,  7:29 PM  

Extreme Wisdom's education reforms seem to be good ways to equalize education spending and to save the taxpayers of Illinois a lot of money by cutting bureaucracy. However, economic studies do show that taking a student from a public school and putting them into a charter school does not really improve their test performance (although it does put them in a safer environment). That being said, the tax savings are reason enough to support a plan like Extreme Wisdom's

Extreme Wisdom 9:48 PM  

Black Libertarian,

Thanks for the comments. I'm working out some kinks in the plan, and your comments/ideas will be incorporated.

The one response I have for you re: "charters" is that past results wouldn't necessarily be a predictor of what would happen under my reforms...

(I wish they were some politician's reforms, Bill - but until one of them gets some 'testicular virility' - bloggers will have to carry the weight).

Turning every IL school into a charter would be a far cry from the limp and (purposefully) constrained charters that currently exist.

Empowering parents with $7K/yr and making every school a laboratory for education (freed from the vile and disguting hand of the NEA, useless mandates, and State Boreds of Edu-ma-cation) would create a dynamic environment that would far surpass the weak charter results you speak of.

[BTW, Charters were made weak for a reason - BIG ED purchases more legislation than BIG OIL, particularly at the state level]

Bill, thanks for the links.

Anonymous,  1:09 PM  

As a parent of two young children about to enter elementary school I am alarmed that a Republican contract would think to turn my highly successful public school district into a "laboratory for eduction". Though I may agree with some of your list of the system's ills, that solution sounds a little too experimental.

Additionally, while the abolition of property taxes sounds good it is not realistic or appealing. Wealthier communities will always be willing to fund their children's education beyond a reasonable level. And converting to state controlled taxes is a huge net outflow from those communities. Doesn't sound like a way of attracting votes to me.

The goal should not be to equalize funding. It should be to shift the target of state funds to schools with children whose communities cannot afford to provide an education that assures that they will not be left behind. Simultaneously, state school funding should be tied to No Child Left Behind results. Students in failing schools ought to be able to choose better. We owe it to those children.

Bill Baar 2:41 PM  

anon: What's really helpful (I think) is tossing out some ideas for things our parties should contract with the people of Illinois.

That's what I'd like to see here.

If you think it's a bum contract, don't vote for them (should they buy off on our contract ideas here of course).

Making The Wheels Turn 5:55 PM  

Few assorted ideas, but I'm really not into the "grand plan" type of stuff. I figure if you are going to really fix these issues, it's going to all be about making enough small improvements to really have an impact.

My overall approach: Whatever you do, it's got to be cost efficient. Ex.: If there's no cost benefit to doing something, why do it?

Example 1: Property taxes on Farmland. Now, I'm suburban, but why are our local governments being forced to waste massive amounts of money on farmland assessments, with the end result being much lower assessments in most areas of the State (yes, that's actually happening). So, in summary, we are actually statewide spending a whole lot of money so we can collect a lot less money.

Most local governments would actually be money ahead if we said that all farmland in Illinois was exempt from real estate taxes (just the farmland and farm buildings, farm houses & their lots still taxed just like everything else). The eligibility requirement would be simple: You (property owner) have to show a minimum of $250 per year for each of the last 3 years in actual FARM income on your filed State tax return (copy required, for each year). Meet the requirement, your farmland is property tax exempt. Don't meet the requirement, it's NOT FARMLAND, and you get to pay regular taxes, just like everybody else.

This frees up a whole bunch of County and township money to do useful work, makes resources available in IL DOR, and gets rid of all those local and state Farmland committees. And all the paper and the reports and all that wasted time goes away!!!! Probably save 1 or 2 National Forests a year, not to mention 80 to 100 Mw. worth of electic power.

May seem like a small thing, but you do this type of thing 99 times over (all different things) and it's going to start to make a difference.

Example 2: Mobile Home taxes. It's such a pitiful amount of money, and it's so expensive to administer, just get rid of them (again, make them non taxable; get rid of the Mobile Home Use Tax). Since the Mobile Home operators and owners aren't willing to pay more (no suprise, they like using the same rate schedule that was put in effect back in the 1970's), and as they aren't paying their own way, just make them not taxable.

That way we get out from under this concept of "Well, we lose money on each one we tax, but we make up for it with volume". See, if we don't tax the Mobile Homes, most places around the State are going to say to the Mobile Home park owners and operators, "Not in my community, you don't".

Again, if it's not cost efficient and it can't be made cost efficient, DON'T DO IT!

Example 3: Unfortunately, this one's got to occur, regardless of anything else.Effective January 1, 2006, all new hires (occurring after 01.01.2006) by ANY governmental body within the State of Illinois has NO ELIGIBILITY (000.000%) for any type of retiree healthcare coverage from any of the governmental bodies they are working for at this point or into the future.

End of story.

You ask why we are being so cruel?

Check out GASB45 (Governmental Accounting Standards Board, Statement 45). It calls for the inclusion of retiree health care and non-pension benefits within each governmental body's annual financial reporting.

Talk about tearing a deficit hole in the annual budgeting.

There's lots more, but it's been a long day already....

Extreme Wisdom 12:52 AM  

Anon 1:09:

As some one who lives in one of those communities that supposedly "values" education, I can attest to the fact that the money is being diverted to pensions, perks, and payroll bloat.

The idea that these things are connecting neurons in your childrens' heads is risible.

Your notion that "wealthier" communities are willing to tax themselves into poverty is somewhat accurate. However, more and more people are beginning to ask how the former superintendent's $84,000 compensation increase in the last 4 years of their career went to education. (It didn't, it went to that person.)

Give me a $2-4,000,000 ad budget over 6 months and I'll have those wealthy communities tarring and feathering the next person who says "it's for the children."

Your comment about your "highly successful school district" being challenged by a "laboratory for education" is interesting as well.

If it is so successful, it wouldn't be challenged, and if it could be "successful" at 70, 60, or even 50% of the cost, then it really can't be considered successful now.

Too many parents like yourself swallow the dogma that $=education, and continue to support throwing ever increasing amounts of money into a black box that has inflated test scores coming out of the other end.

(check out OECD data on how good our schools are when compared to something other than America's poor kids)

Open up that black box, and you see PTELL manipulation schemes, laws that make sure that money is diverted to benefits (not children), and a bevy of bond dealers, text book companies, consultants (who learned the trade as Superintendents) and other leeches that are bleeding Illinois dry.

Your comment about "owing it to" the poorer children to give them better schools is right on, but the person you elected to the legislature isn't looking out for those poor children. They are looking out for the fat Education Bureaucracy that funded their campaign.

Go ahead, call them and tell them you want expanded vouchers/scholarships for the poorer kids. You'll get pabulum as a response. Look at their voting record and they will be exposed as bought and paid for.

In closing, if your kids could get a better education for less money, you have a duty to seek out how that might be achieved.

If you reject the notion that it could actually be possible, you are already a happy convert.

Subvert the dominant paradigm.

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