Politicians love to pander. And no one gets pandered to more than old folks.
A good case in point is what Gov. Pat Quinn did this week. He signed Senate Bill 1894, which raises the senior homestead exemption from $4,000 to $5,000. Quinn claims this will save seniors as much as $200 on their property taxes. The reality is that for most seniors it will save about $60.
It’s important to remember that cities levy an amount rather than a rate. So when a tax break is given to one group, it is made up by the rest of us.
For example, let’s say Moline levies $11.6 million in property taxes. But the state gives expanded tax breaks to Moline senior citizens. That means the rate paid by all of the taxpayers younger than 65 goes up. So it’s not really a “tax break.” It’s better described as a shifting of taxes from one age group to another.
Is that good public policy?
Please keep in mind, home-owning seniors are one of the wealthiest groups in American society. The reason is simple: they often have reached a point where their homes are paid for, their retirement savings are secure and their personal expenses are at their lowest.
And yet, this is a group the governor and the Illinois General Assembly have chosen to pander to, perhaps because of their high rate of voter participation.
Illinois vs. Missouri
Do folks in the Show-Me State have a greater love of taxes than in the Land of Lincoln?
Well, at first blush, that’s what you might think if you looked at the results of a study Americans for Prosperity shared with me.
Voters in both states went to the polls a few days apart this spring and voted on a host of local tax referendums.
In Illinois, voters rejected 60 of the 106 tax referendums put on local ballots. On the other hand, in Missouri voters rejected 68 of 272 referendums. That’s a 57 percent rejection rate in Illinois to Missouri’s 25 percent rejection rate.
Why the difference?
Illinoisans are overtaxed, contends David From, Illinois director for Americans for Prosperity.
“People have more of a tolerance of local taxes because people want their schools to be good. They also want to have good parks,” he said. “It more directly affects their lives so they should be more likely to support taxes. And, frankly, there is less organized opposition so it’s easier to pass taxes on a local level.
“But in Illinois unemployment is high, the median household income has dropped and state income taxes went up 67 percent two years ago. People are just tapped out and still they are being asked to pay more. I think the result we see is people are just saying ‘enough is enough.’”
How much is that puppy in the window?
My home is a virtual menagerie, with four dogs, two cats and a pair of parakeets. That’s the result of marrying a veterinarian who loves creatures large and small.
But even before I met my wife, I was an experienced pet owner and treated the purchase like I would any other major transaction. I bargained over the price and asked before the sale if I could return the dog if my vet found something seriously wrong.
In each case, the seller agreed to that condition as part of the transaction. If the sellers hadn’t, I would have gone on to purchase an animal elsewhere. That’s how the free market works.
In fact, in one case I purchased an English bulldog back in 1990 and my vet found a major malformation obstructing her trachea. I returned the dog, got my money back and purchased a puppy elsewhere.
All was well with the world.
But now it seems lawmakers have a solution searching for a problem. The Senate Executive Committee voted Wednesday in favor of a bill some have described as a “puppy lemon law.”
The legislation would allow people who buy a cat or dog to get a replacement or a refund if the animal needs veterinary care for some illnesses or conditions within 20 days of purchase. The buyer also could seek damages for the cost of veterinary care.
Gee, just what we need in our litigious society: another opportunity to sue. Lawmakers are barking up the wrong tree on this one.
How about assuming people are adults and can make wise decisions for themselves? After all, they can negotiate whatever conditions for a sale when they buy a pet.
And if the seller won’t, um, play ball there are always plenty of other places that will.