Reick believes education funding, pensions to be driving force behind ever-increasing taxes
Steve Reick, Illinois House candidate for District 63, recently appeared on the Property Tax Show on AM-560, touching on the vision he has for Illinois and what he considers to be the most pressing issues facing the state.
The conservative told radio host Brad Hays he is running for office because Illinois is rich with opportunity and promise, but events that have occurred over the past 25 years or so require someone willing to address tough issues.
“I’ve always had an interest in public policy, and the policies I’m interested in are the ones that lend themselves to being solved at the state legislative level,” Reick said.
Born and raised in Illinois, Reick advocates for people who don’t have all the advantages they need to succeed and who worry whether their next paycheck will be their last. Witnessing the state’s potential ruined by bad policies over the years compelled Reick to take action and bid for a House seat.
“You look at the state and you see the promise; you see the great research institutions; you see that we’re sitting on the shores of 20 percent of the world’s fresh water,” Reick said. “We’re the transportation hub of the United States. We’ve got an incredibly diverse and well-educated and hardworking labor force -- people who want to work.”
Reick’s vision for the state is to make all the great aspects of Illinois come together to benefit the people.
“And I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult for them to work as long as we, and I’m talking prospectively as a state legislator, as long as we do our job in Springfield and create the circumstances and conditions in which those people can actually do the best they can do,” he said.
One of the urgent areas needing desperate attention, aside from the budget, is property taxes, Reick said. Illinois has the second highest property taxes in the country.
“It’s really illustrative when you compare tax bills of properties of equal value between the city of Chicago and, say, McHenry, when we’re paying taxes in McHenry at twice the level as a house of similar value in Chicago,” Reick said.
When asked what he believed to be the driving force behind ever-increasing taxes, Reick said it was education funding and pensions.
“The way we fund education in Illinois is skewed, in a manner of speaking, toward the City of Chicago when the money comes from the state, leaving collar counties and McHenry, in particular, dependent upon property taxes to make up the difference,” he said.
McHenry County has the same mandates and education curricula as schools in Chicago, Reick explained, but an overwhelming majority of state aid is going to Chicago, forcing counties in District 63 to rely on property taxes to make up the difference, which residents cannot afford.
“We need to look at the way in which we fund education in the state," he said. "Article 10 of the Constitution is pretty plain. It says the primary responsibility for funding education in the state belongs to the state, not to the local taxpayers. And the problem is that there is no other place to find money than the property taxes; and the issue is how high can they go before people just dig in their heels and say, ‘We’ve had enough.’”
What is bringing the state to its knees financially is the enormous amount of revenue funding pensions. Next year, 24 percent of the general revenue will pay for pensions, with the overwhelming majority of it going to pay for pension underfunding, according to Reick.
“So, what needs to be done is, we need to have a budget process that takes that underfunding and moves it someplace else with its own separate revenue stream, allowing us to have a budget that only works to fund current operations including the current accrual on pensions, but not this massive underfunding,” he said.
Reick, who runs his own private law practice, is well aware of the destructive cycle mismanaging taxes can create.
“I’m a tax lawyer, and over the years I’ve learned that the easiest money to borrow is money you should be paying over for taxes, but the hardest money to pay back is the money you’ve borrowed from the tax collector and used for other purposes,” he said. “And the state of Illinois, the legislature, has been up to their elbows in making money go someplace other than where it’s supposed to go -- in the pensions -- because the fact is the Constitution guarantees benefits.”
Reick beat opponent Jeffery Litchie in the Republican primary last month. He will face incumbent Jack Franks in the November election.