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State Stix

Father of the state property tax

Gov. Thomas Ford (1800-1850), a Democrat, inherited a financial crisis. When he took office in 1842, the cost of building the Illinois-Michigan Canal and a disastrous public railroad project had put Illinois $15 million in debt. The state was so broke it couldn't buy postage stamps, and many citizens wanted to renege on the debt. Instead, Ford got some of the debt cancelled, then persuaded the legislature to pass a property tax. The tax enabled the state to pay back its debt, finish the Illinois-Michigan Canal and begin the industrial age with a good credit rating.

Source: Robert P. Howard, Mostly Good and Competent Men.

Father of the state sales tax

The first Jewish governor and the first Democrat to serve two terms since the Civil War, Gov. Henry Horner (1878-1940) took office in 1933 in the depths of the Great Depression. That year he pushed through a 2 percent retail sales tax to pay for relief for the unemployed. In 1935 Illinois was out of money again. Horner proposed raising the new sales tax to 3 percent and adding a tax on utilities. The legislature reluctantly agreed after he pointed out that the alternative was starvation for unemployed families. In spite of the tax issue, Horner became a popular hero because he refused to kowtow to Chicago's Kelly-Nash machine. With the help of Republicans he carried every downstate county and eight Chicago wards in the primary and won election to a second term by a large margin.

Source: Same as above.

Illinois' first 1 -----1

Lyman Trumbull (1813-1896) rode into the state on horseback in 1837. Then he settled down to practice law in Belleville. But he never really settled down because of his habit of staying a little ahead and a little to the left of prevailing opinion. As a result his political career had an unusual number of firings, resignations and fresh starts. First he got fired from his secretary of state job by Gov. Ford because he was against bailing out the banks. Then he split with the Democrats over slavery. That turned out well because he helped found the Republican party, got Abraham Lincoln elected president and ended up a powerful senator in Washington. The 1866 Civil Rights Act was largely Trumbull's work. But after Lincoln was killed, respect for the Constitution seemed to slacken, and Trumbull split with the Republicans over power plays, sleaze and general corruption.

Sources: Michael J. Howlett, Keepers of the Seal: A History of Illinois Secretaries of State; Ralph J. Roske, His Own Counsel: The Life and Times of Lyman Trumbull.

For a while Trumbull tried being a liberal Republican

Alas, the "L" word was not a big votegetter in 1872. So he rejoined the Democratic party. But in 1894 Democratic President Grover Cleveland issued a blanket injunction against Eugene V. Debs and the striking Pullman railway workers. There was nothing left for Trumbull to do but split with the Democrats, join the Populist party and defend Debs before the U.S. Supreme Court. He didn't charge anything for the latter except expenses because the union had run out of money. He was 81 years old at the time.

Source: Roske.

What did populist Trumbell tell the railway workers in 1894 after they got hit by Cleveland's injunction?

He said don't turn to violence; instead organize politically to take control of Congress and the state legislatures. Then pass the needed reforms to end monopolies and redistribute the nation's wealth.

Source: Same as above.

Great-grandfather of the 1040

What did grizzled old Chicago lawyer and ex-U.S. Sen. Trumbull tell his young student intern. William Jennings Bryan? He told him to work for women's suffrage, direct election of U.S. senators, a state inheritance tax and a graduated federal income tax.

Source: Charles Morrow Wilson, The Commoner: William Jennings Bryan.

Father of Illinois' income tax

Richard Buell Ogilvie (1923-1988) was governor of Illinois from January 13, 1969, until January 8, 1972. During his single term he rehabbed, revamped and remodeled state government. A World War II veteran, a reform-minded Republican and a lawyer, Ogilvie is described by Robert Howard as "short on charisma but long on executive ability." A lot of Ogilvie's improvements had to do with the noncharismatic subject of taxes. When he came into office, the state was trying to do a 1969 job on a 1935 tax base. When he left office, Illinois had a flat rate tax on corporate and personal income, and the General Assembly had annual instead of biennial budget sessions. Control of the budgeting process had been wrested from the legislature and given to the newly created Bureau of the Budget, a fearsome place full of economists answerable only to the governor.

Source: Howard.

The final straw

While he was governor, Ogilvie continued to make improvements in Cook County where he had been sheriff and president of the Cook County Board. The Chicago Democrats let him get away with some of these. He also had a quaint belief in paying for things like schools, sewers, roads and social services. Illinois voters rewarded Ogilvie for saving the state from bankruptcy and bringing it into the second half of the 20th century by defeating him in his run for reelection by 77,494 votes. He might have squeaked by in spite of the income tax, if his new Environmental Protection Agency hadn't issued a ban on leaf burning.

Source: Same as above.

Average daily balance sinks

The general funds balance at the end of April was $275.255 million; the average daily available balance, which has been going down since July 1989, was $160.489 million.

Source: Office of the Comptroller.

Jobless rate rises

The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.4 percent in April, the highest since January 1989. Illinois' rate was up to 6.1 percent from March's 5.5.

An all-time record of 6.091 million people were in the Illinois workforce in April, and another all-time record of 5.722 million were actually working. This left 369,000 people unemployed, an increase of 39,000. Cold weather cut outdoor construction and recreation jobs.

Final metro area unemployment rates in February were:

Aurora-Elgin, 6.5 percent.

Bloomington-Normal, 4.5 percent.

Champaign-Urbana-Rantoul, 4.2 percent.

Chicago, 6.0 percent.

Davenport, Rock Island, Moline (Illinois sector), 7.5 percent.

Decatur, 7.7 percent.

Joliet, 7.4 percent.

Kankakee, 8.5 percent.

Lake County, 4.3 percent.

Peoria, 7.0 percent.

Rockford, 6.6 percent.

Springfield, 5.1 percent.

St. Louis (Illinois sector), 7.6 percent.

Source: Department of Employment Security.

Margaret S. Knoepfle

June 1990/Illinois Issues/5

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