Friday, February 8, 2008

Why I Voted To Raise Taxes

By Alderman Helen Shiller

I am grateful to all of the 46th Ward residents who took the time to contact my office regarding the increase in the city’s property transfer tax as part of the overall restructuring and bailout of the CTA. It was helpful to hear from people on both sides of the issue, and your calls, emails and letters were part of my careful consideration of this ordinance. I voted yes at the city council meeting of Wednesday, February 6, for the following reasons:

A functioning CTA is far more vital to maintaining and promoting property values (especially on the lakefront) than not increasing the transfer tax. The bailout of the CTA was not a menu to pick and choose from, but rather one package mandated by the Governor and the Illinois General Assembly. Without the City’s part of the package, the CTA would falter and most of the dreaded “doomsday” scenarios we all heard about would occur. In other words, voting no on this proposition would not just result in a $.25 or $.50 fare increase. Additionally, CTA workers have already agreed to steep concessions in their contract in preparation of this bailout – and further concessions to avoid steep fare increases and/or cuts is out of the question.

The transfer tax increase is a necessary part of the overall CTA restructuring. This increase allows for the CTA to sell 30-year bonds that will restructure the pension system and eliminate the burden of health care costs from the pension funds. Ultimately, this restructuring will save the CTA and its riders tens of millions of dollars.

This increase was also seen as being coupled with the ¼ percent sales tax increase passed in Springfield. To vote “no” would have been to undermine the entire effort to save the CTA. And, any other ideas would have to have been approved by Springfield – not an easy task in this political climate.

Although the increase comes at a time when property sales are experiencing a downturn, the increase is across the board in Chicago and will be absorbed by the market, just as the initial tax was. And, I might add, the first tax was also opposed by many who claimed it would destroy property sales and values in Chicago. This, of course, did not happen.

Moreover, the number of “vote no” correspondences I received paled in comparison to the concern regarding CTA fare increases and cuts. Without question, saving the CTA generated more concern in my office (as well as the offices of the local State Representatives) than any other issue in recent history.

I have to vote on tax issues from the point of view of what is best for both the 46th Ward and Chicago as a whole. I know the politically “safe” thing to do in our current climate would be to vote against all tax increases and then hope enough aldermen vote yes so it passes. Some of my colleagues have chosen this route. I cannot. A safe, affordable, well functioning mass transit system is essential and vital to all urban areas.


  1. Well for once I agree with the alderbeast. Of course I didn't get the email because they figured out my fake email name and took me off the list. Woe is me. I cry just thinking about not being one of her pet constituents.

    Now where the alderbeasts are wrong, and that means all of them, is not criticizing Da Mare for how the CTA was run for the last 18 years. Cronyism, waste, outright theft, and horrible decision making. Tens of millions wasted on plans that never and will never come into being.

    Outside that on this one little vote Alderbeast Shiller was correct. The alternative is cutting service and that would be worse.

    Thank you Alderman Shiller for your brave and wise vote. I'm sure retaliation from "Da Mare" did NOT play into your wise and just vote.

  2. "I know the politically 'safe' thing to do in our current climate would be to vote against all tax increases and then hope enough aldermen vote yes so it passes."

    So, she'd vote "no" on tax increase only to HOPE that it passes, anyway?


    I know what she means, but any interpretation is unacceptable.

    If the council can only come up with the options of letting the CTA doomsday occur, or jack taxes (again!), they aren't trying hard enough to solve the deeper issues.

    They simply can't do their jobs because they simply aren't qualified for them.

  3. " A safe, affordable, well functioning mass transit system is essential and vital to all urban areas."

    I agree. Just take the Wilson El stop for example...oh wait.

  4. We're so glad Alderman Helen Shiller believes in raising our taxes. Too bad she fails to pay her own.

    She was forced to sell her former aldermanic office building on Montrose when the IRS moved in for collection. Of course, she had some gulible Medill journalisn student write revisionist history saying gentrifying developers forced poor Helen (the owner) out.

  5. Since when has she cared about "maintaining and promoting property values?"

  6. My recollection of the alderbeast moving her office is a bit different.

    It was on 1100 Montrose where the tall newer red brick midrise is.

    The property contained her office and the much larger "Paris Dance" lesbian nightclub. The owners of "Paris Dance" sold the entire property to a developer. The alderbeast's office was a tenant. This goes back to Nov 1997. Ze demise of "Paris Dance".

    Now the alderbeast did refuse and delay moving for quite awhile. It was embarrassing. The developer actually demolished the entire building except for her office. The whole building was gone except for some block......kinda silly silly silly.

    It was written up in the major newspapers at the time. She lives just west of there at the time and I'm sure missed the 3 minute commute.

    Now the whole IRS thing seems like a rumor run amok.

  7. Shiller's doing the right thing here. It would have been a bad idea for the City Council to hold up the CTA funding mechanism approved by the State. But I do wish that the CTA funding had been tied to a gas tax increase instead this sales tax/transfer tax! If you don't like these taxes (and I don't), the blame should be cast on the State Legislature and Governor. If I were in Shiller's position, I would have voted the same way. It would have been counter-productive to hold this CTA funding up at the city level. It's unlikely that we'll get a better deal from the state at this point...

  8. A gas tax? So the people who rely 100% on the train don't have to pay for the increase. Should have voted against it. BooHoo, raise the price of riding the CTA then.

  9. Yep. The gas tax would make it an economic disincentive to drive to work. I love the idea of taking money from drivers, who cause several negative economic externalities like congestion and pollution, and putting that money into public transit. It's the same as using cigarette tax reveunes for health care.

    This is a much better idea than raising the sales tax, which affects low-income families disproportionately.

  10. I agree that higher gas prices would make less people want to drive to work. However, if we then relied on gas taxes to fund the CTA wouldn't we still be loosing revenue. Less people driving = less money for the CTA.

    If you think the cigarette taxes are going to health care then your Social Security is also properly invested and secure.

    Taking money from people because you disagree with them or their lifestyle is a dangerous road to go down.

  11. I said it was a similar idea to a cigarette tax being used for health care. Fewer drivers might mean more CTA riders, so it could balance itself out.

    If you don't think that the government should be providing economic incentives and disincentives to change people's behavior, then we should get rid of:

    1. Legal fines of any kind, whether they be for speeding, polluting, fighting, or parking illegally on your front yard.
    2. Mortgage tax deductions
    3. Child tax credits
    4. "Economic Stimulus" packages
    5. All subsidies and tariffs
    6. Research grants
    7. Student Loans

    The government constantly creates incentives and disincentives to control human behavior. Some of these are used to enforce laws. Others are used to "strongly encourage" a particular behavior. You're free to disagree with this, but it's hardly new behavior on the part of the government.

  12. Anyway, the best solution would be for the government to eliminate waste and to not raise taxes at all. But if it comes down to a sales tax increase or a gas tax increase to fund public transit (which were the two ideas floated around the legislature), I'd choose the gas tax.

  13. I agree but...
    An economic stimulus package is not meant to control human behavior. It is meant to put more money into tax payers hands (the economy) and boost spending.

    Of course a lot of these programs sound good but the results are usually quite questionable. It was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff's that extended the great depression.

    One could argue that the mass amounts of money given out for student loans have played a role in the soaring cost of higher education.

    It just seems to me that the less the government gets involved the better.

  14. I would choose a tax that is more equitable across the board. A gas tax, realty transfer tax, and the literally thousands of other types of taxes don't cut it because it still disproportionately targets those with less.

    A state income tax increase would be better all around. It taxes income and interest gained from investments. It would make school funding across the state more equitable. Our state income taxes are unusually low while our other taxes are unusually high. Turn that around.

    The only type of small taxes that seem to work is something that targets tourists but you don't want to do too much of that because we don't want to discourage tourists from coming to Illinois.