In a recent article state Sen. Brian Stewart laid out his economic agenda for northwest Illinois. He claims that rural America is different from the rest of the country. He tells us four times that rural America is different from urban America. However, he doesn’t explain what those differences are. Nor does he differentiate between people born and raised in rural America, immigrants who have moved here, weekenders and retirees.
He implies that national pundits who write about rural America shouldn’t because they weren’t born and raised here, didn’t go to a rural college and don’t work here. That’s a narrow, provincial view. Stewart’s upset, and we are too, that the pundits don’t have quick and easy answers. He lists his solutions, which come down to the same old, tired and worn-out ideas of lower taxes and deregulation of the economy. He does mentions broadband and the need for rural infrastructure improvements.
Farmers all over the world from India to Iowa and from Illinois to Central America, from England to the EU are being challenged. I’m sure that if Stewart sat with the Farm Bureau and the East Coast pundits, they would tell him that the challenges facing farmers are not going to be solved by letting them spray more Round-up and by lowering their capital gains taxes. Farmers’ problems have to do with enormous debt, changing markets, inability to hire workers and climate change. As we write this, farmers near us are lucky. Their fields have dried out and they are planting as usual. Other farmers in the Midwest are not so lucky.
Stewart can’t help but try and upset us by raising the specter of Chicago’s stealing rural tax dollars for their big city coffers. This canard has been debunked over and over, most recently by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIU.
Actually, Chicago and Springfield can help downstate Illinois if we reach out and join them. The old Daley machine has been weakened and we have a forward-looking governor, a new mayor, and five Social Democrats on the City Council in Chicago.
The most important piece of legislation that Gov. JB Pritzker is proposing and that Mayor Lori Lightfoot has endorsed is a progressive state income tax referendum. This will do three things. It shifts the burden from those who can’t afford more taxes to those who can easily pay more taxes. At the same time, it calls for lowering local property taxes and it will generate new dollars even after the reduction of property taxes.
Our schools are in desperate shape. They need more money. The property taxes are maxed out. A progressive income tax is the solution. Local school districts will have the funds to raise salaries, attract and retain good teachers, repair buildings, and fully fund programs that have been reduced or even eliminated.
And yes, we will need even more funds to repair our public infrastructure. The roads that we all use, including our farmer neighbors, are in desperate shape. We need to fill the potholes and widen and repair the shoulders on Highway 20 and the obscure Meyers Road near us. This will take big bucks from both state and federal funding.
It’s past time to discuss climate change and how it is already affecting all of us, including our farmer neighbors. As we sort through the available options and make decisions about our future and our children’s future, we can imagine positive solutions emerging, including more public transit, long overdue in NW Illinois.
These are exciting times if we look ahead and not dream of some mythical past.
Chuck and Pat Wemstrom live in rural Mount Carroll. Reach them at email@example.com.
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via Journal Standard
April 26, 2019 at 07:09AM