On behalf of the AARP Tax-Aide program and the Carroll County Senior Services Organization, I would like to thank everyone who participated in the tax assistance program for the elderly this 2013 tax season.
The Carroll County Senior Services Organization serves as the local sponsor of this program, hosting two mornings a week throughout the February through April tax season. There were 730 taxpayers served this season including those with only tax questions.
This year we saw an amazing increase in our numbers which often resulted in longer wait times. We thank those who so patiently waited for our assistance. This season we trained four new counselors and acquired six new computers, which will help us prepare for the next tax season. Although our numbers have grown steadily each year, this year we saw an unusual 16% increase in clients.
The site could not run smoothly without the efforts of the Senior Center staff. They scheduled all the tax appointments, provided refreshments and assisted taxpayers with tax freeze and circuit breaker applications. Intake Facilitators greeted clients and assisted with the interview process.
Our Tax Aide Counselors recertify each January in their knowledge of tax law, completing three tests covering tax law as well as completing practice exercises to review the ever-changing computer software. The ten certified Counselors and seven Intake Facilitators donated approximately 1700 hours to this service throughout the winter.
The Tax-Aide counselors completed 463 returns for the current year, 97% of which were electronically filed. In addition we completed 11 amended and prior year returns. We attribute the success of this program to word of mouth promotion among the seniors and the excellent cooperation from the county newspapers. The Carroll County Tax-Aide site continues to be among the top performers in Northern Illinois, and was highly reviewed by the Northern IL IRS representative, Harry Fitzsimmons.
Again I thank the community for its ongoing support and enthusiasm. This 2013 tax season was a great success due to a dedicated group of volunteers and your positive response to their service. By starting next year with more staff and six stations, we expect clients will find the process to flow more smoothly with less waiting.
Mary Ann Hutchison
Blame the Victim
By Dan Proft | Illinois Opportunity Project
On March 27, 1984, the Maryland State Senate passed legislation giving the City of Baltimore the power to seize the Baltimore Colts football franchise through the city’s eminent domain powers. On March 29, 1984, the Baltimore Colts piled their belongings into Mayflower trailers and convoyed themselves to Indianapolis under the cover of darkness.
Policy decisions impact people’s lives.
The politicians were the bad guys (if you consider expropriating another’s property poor form) but it was Colts owner Robert Irsay and his co-conspirators in Indianapolis who were vilified by the denizens of Baltimore.
Governor Pat Quinn and Springfield legislative leaders must have been paying attention. They have made Illinois an inhospitable place to start a new business or expand an existing one but ascribe the fault of flight from Illinois to outside interlopers like Texas Governor Rick Perry (and several other governors) who committed the great sin of pointing out the obvious.
In advance of a recent trip to Chicago to speak at a biotechnology conference, Gov. Perry launched a privately-funded ad blitz in Chicago encouraging employers to consider relocating to Texas.
Gov. Perry pointed out inconvenient truths like Texas’ unemployment rate is 50% lower than Illinois’, Texas has no state income tax, and Texas enacted tort reform to level the playing field between employers and rapacious trial lawyers.
Gov. Perry’s message to Illinois businesses was simple: Get Out While There’s Still Time.
Gov. Quinn’s response to Perry was facile: Texas is “water-challenged”. Chicagoland businesses, you are on notice. Pat Quinn brought Lake Michigan into this world (actually it formed at the end of the most recent ice age about 10,000 years before Quinn became governor, but he’s had to deal with enough unpleasant facts so let’s keep that between us), and he can take it out.
Incapable of accepting responsibility, Gov. Quinn focuses instead on creative ways to avoid blame.
The problem for the Chicago Democrat political class is that the capital markets, credit rating agencies, and job creators know precisely who should be held to account for what Illinois has become.
A recent Morgan Stanley poll of high net-worth investors in Chicago found that they were “by far the most bearish nationally on their state economy, with 58% predicting it will be worse at year-end, compared with 22% nationally. The financial well-being of Illinois was cited as a concern by 93% (80% “very concerned’). Nationally, this was not named as a top concern.”
The annual survey of CEOs by ChiefExecutive.net ranked Illinois as the 48th best (or 3rd worst) state in the nation to do business. One CEO said Illinois is one of a few states that has “no clue that someone has to pay the bills and that the taxpayer is going to not take much longer. Even though they have the highest tax rates they have the worst services—go figure.”
Another CEO said, “Illinois—a complete and utter disaster when it comes to fiscal management. The inability to address key issues that are driving debt and instead increase the tax burden on businesses AND residents is mind-boggling.”
Good luck vilifying those messengers, Gov. Quinn.
Perhaps our pandering political leaders in Springfield should stop complaining about other governors wooing Illinois businesses and start emulating them. Perhaps they should stop telling Illinois businesses how much they want them to stay and pursue policies that would keep them here. If they do not, a la the Baltimore Colts, we will find more and more Illinois employers leaving to play for other cities and states.
By Jim Sacia, State Representative, 89th District
How did the state pension problem get as bad as it is? That question is commented on regularly but not always factually.
Teachers and state workers regularly contact me with comments such as - I dutifully fulfilled my payment obligations throughout my career, you (the state) have not and that is the problem. Unquestionably that person has in fact paid their fair share. That person deserves the retirement they were promised.
In my eleven years in Springfield the state borrowed money on two occasions to make the payment (each time about $5 billion) and once the payment was not made at all. Proudly I always voted no on those issues.
In fairness three other issues come into play: 1. A downturn in the market severely crippled investments. 2. Perks were given to state workers and teachers approaching retirement to incentivize that retirement. This was in exchange for the unions representing the teachers and state workers to not object to the state not making that pension payment and to allow the borrowing. Many teachers and state workers say their unions didn’t do that. I was here folks, they did. Those bills never would have passed without the unions going neutral. 3. Illinois has been a very welcoming state giving away far more than perhaps we should have. (This explanation came from Speaker Madigan as he presented House Amendment 1 to the Senate Bill 1, the recently passed pension bill.) I didn’t fully get my arms around that one either.
I voted against the pension bill. My biggest motivation for doing so was the Judges Retirement System was not included. The reasons for that, according to the Speaker, were the judges will be determining the constitutionality of the bill and it would be a conflict to have them participate. In no way can I accept that. It’s a far over used phrase but “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”. The bill has numerous other issues but space will not allow me to address them all.
That bill passed the House with the slimmest of margins. In my opinion it will not be called in the Senate because of its many problems. Senate President Cullerton is presenting a new bill (yet to be seen at this writing) which will apparently get the unions on board and will stand a constitutional challenge. We shall see. These are fascinating times in Illinois Government.