Editorial: Kennedy is right about Madigan conflict

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted1/14/2018 8:51 AM
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  • Candidate for governor Chris Kennedy of Kenilworth says House Speaker Michael Madigan has a conflict of interest when it comes to property taxes.

      Candidate for governor Chris Kennedy of Kenilworth says House Speaker Michael Madigan has a conflict of interest when it comes to property taxes. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

While there is considerable debate about the merits of a graduated income tax in Illinois, few defend the heavy reliance that the state's tax system places on local property taxes.

Property taxes are decried almost universally as too high, too inequitable and too unfair.

We would join that chorus. We suspect you would too. And we suspect that publicly at least, so would the state legislators and other elected officials who represent you.

Chris Kennedy, who visited with our Editorial Board last week to make his case for the Democratic nomination for governor, is a big proponent of the graduated income tax concept, as are most of his opponents for the nomination.

He contends that it is a key to reforming the way education is funded in Illinois, which he sees as a key to revitalizing the state's economic health and to reversing the out-migration of our population.

But, he says, systematic reform will never happen as long as the most powerful political leaders in the state have a vested interest in maintaining the property tax system.

Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, the head of the Cook County Democratic Party, accepts heavy campaign donations from property tax lawyers who make their livings by appealing assessments, CBS Chicago investigators have reported. And longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan has long made a good living as a member of one of the county's top property tax law offices.

Both have clear conflicts of interest, Kennedy says. Both have disincentives to decrease state and local government reliance on property taxes.

"I don't think what (Madigan) does is illegal," Kennedy says. "I just think it should be illegal ... I don't think you should be an elected official and have that conflict of interest. He should not have an outside job that is adverse to the interests of the body he was elected to serve."

We're not convinced -- not yet, at least -- that a graduated income tax is good for Illinois. We'd have to hear some pretty strong arguments. But Kennedy's point about Madigan's conflict of interest couldn't be more accurate. Why should the House Speaker profit from property taxes?

And why should an assessor be allowed to take campaign contributions from those who have a vested interest in influencing the evaluations of his office?

This is an election year and the candidates for governor are not the only ones running. Let those seeking your vote for the Illinois House and Illinois Senate know you're concerned about these conflicts. And ask them what they're going to do about them.

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