President Reagan once joked that, “government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."
Government injecting itself into every crevice of our lives goes against the idea of freedom and the very ideals of the American experiment. However, for over a decade in Illinois, our elected leaders have sold increased government involvement as a remedy for the state’s economic woes.
The results speak for themselves. We’re at the bottom of nearly every ranking of economic health.
When you talk to these politicians, it’s not that they have malice in their hearts. In fact, most of them mean well. But the problem is not in their hearts: it’s in their heads. They lost the view of the rules that govern economics. Certain policies generally grow an economy; others generally shrink an economy.
We know there’s no time to waste in turning the state around. Serious substantive actions need to be taken immediately. Governor Bruce Rauner has laid a solid list of specifics. Others have set forth alternate views.
As public officials debate whether a certain policy will fix or ruin our economy, the real test is whether the policy is in tune with sound principles. As you’re evaluating the various fixes proposed for the economy, I’d urge you to view them all in light of four key tests:
1. Does it Limit or Expand the Size and Scope of Government? President Reagan said “man is not free unless government is limited.” One of the key problems with big government is that it tends to be wasteful. When a business wastes money or makes bad decisions, it gets punished in the marketplace. When government programs fail, the typical response is to spend more money. Not every expansion is bad, of course, but every expansion has a cost.
2. Does it Keep the Tax Burden on Individuals and Businesses Low? Keeping tax rates on individuals low encourages people to work hard and strive for success, since they know they’ll keep the extra money earned. Lower tax rates put more money in the hands of consumers to spend, which also creates more jobs. As well, the more people spend, the more money that is collected in sales taxes. It’s a win/win situation. For businesses, a corporate tax rate that is higher than neighboring states can drive those businesses and their jobs to neighboring states. As well, when one business gets a break from generally applicable taxes, that drives up the tax burden on other businesses. In particular, we’ve seen instances where large businesses get breaks because of the skill of their lobbyists, not because of demonstrated economic need. This puts an extra squeeze on small businesses trying to compete with those large businesses – and most of our new jobs come from these small businesses. We have to have taxes, but again, there’s always a cost to consider.
3. Does it Reduce a Regulatory Burden? Making it difficult for an entrepreneur to start up a business in Illinois is one of the main reasons our state is perceived to be “bad for business.” And, each regulation means more cost to individuals, small businesses, and big businesses, in order to comply. Like before, some level of regulation is absolutely necessary, but reducing regulatory burdens generally improves economic activity.
4. Does it Promote Competition? The government should promote businesses to compete with one another, without picking winners and losers. This is another one where big or established businesses can use onerous laws and regulations to freeze out small or new businesses, which isn’t good for the economy or consumers. As well, the government can open up some areas for economic activity that were previously closed. For instance, when I was on the Lombard Village Board, I led the efforts to rewrite the taxi ordinance to allow more companies to provide service to residents. That meant more choices for consumers and additional opportunities for individual livery drivers to make a living. Allowing outdoor dining where it was forbidden before also gave customers more options and improved business for our small eateries and pubs.
Over the past decade and more, we’ve had many politicians hawking their “economic recovery” plans – all have failed. While there’s no single magic bullet to create jobs and turn Illinois around, these four tests are a good way to quickly separate the proposals that can work from the proposals that can’t work.
I support many of Gov. Rauner’s economic proposals, because they meet these four tests. But no matter the specific proposal, if we stick to sound principles, we can make “Illinois Turnaround” more than just a slogan and return our state to its rightful place as the best in the country.
This week, Representative Peter Breen filed six bills on a variety of subjects, his first bills filed as a state legislator. Breen's initial bills focus on protecting individual rights, promoting small business, limiting abusive lawsuit threats, promoting open government, and removing state mandates from non-home rule communities. The bills are as follows:
Eavesdropping Act: HB 2688 amends the controversial Eavesdropping Act amendment adopted during the lame duck legislative session last year. Breen's amendment would protect the right of undercover journalists, government watchdogs, and others to audio tape a conversation that they are a part of, occurring in a place open to the public. Breen would also greatly reduce the penalty for taping improperly, from a felony to a misdemeanor. Breen stated, "citizens and journalists should not be turned into criminals for recording conversations in public places. Whether it's a journalist documenting illegal or unethical behavior or a worker documenting sexual harassment by her boss, folks should not be turned into felons for recording conversations that they're a part of, in places open to the public."
Grade A Pasteurized Milk and Milk Products Act: HB 2690 allows for the sale and distribution of raw milk, without fear of legal liability, as long as rules set forth by the Department of Public Health are followed. According to Breen, “this legislation will benefit both consumers and small family farmers. Many of my neighbors enjoy drinking raw milk, but they must go to great lengths to purchase it, even sometimes going directly to the farmer. There's no reason to forbid people from purchasing raw milk at their neighborhood market, as long as proper public health regulations are followed. Our ancestors drank raw milk for thousands of years, and modern technology has greatly improved farmers' ability to safely produce this product."
Internet Screening in Public Libraries Act: HB 2689 requires internet filters on public library computers to prevent the viewing of hard-core pornography on those computers. Breen emphatically stated that, “I’ve heard from many moms over the years that adult men are regularly viewing hard-core pornography on public library computers, in full view of children and others. This is an abuse of taxpayer resources and creates a hostile environment for public library employees and patrons. No child should have to walk past obscene and abusive material in order to take advantage of the educational opportunities available at their public library.”
Open Meetings Act: HB 2687 expands the current power of members of the public to record a government meeting to also allow taping before and after the meeting. Breen noted that, “there should be no protection for public officials who behave unethically or illegally ‘out in the hallway’ and ‘off-camera’ before or after a public meeting. The purpose of the Open Meetings Act is to allow the public to see and understand the workings of their government, and this bill will bring greater transparency to the legislative process.”
Consumer Fraud & Deceptive Business Practices Act: HB 2691 prohibits the practice of “copyright trolling.” Out-of-state corporations claiming to have copyrights to widely available images on the internet are regularly threatening Illinois individuals and small nonprofits with lawsuits, merely for posting these images on their websites. These large out-of-state interests demand thousand-dollar “settlements” to avoid legal action, but without providing any proof that they hold copyrights in the images – or that the images are worth more than a few dollars, much less thousands of dollars. Breen noted, “individuals and small nonprofits are being shaken down for thousands of dollars by foreign interests for alleged copyright infringement, but these interests refuse to even prove that they own the images involved. Folks shouldn’t have to fear financial ruin just for posting on their websites pictures that they believe in the public domain.”
Equal Powers for Non-Home Rule Communities Act: HB 2686 allows non-home rule communities, like Lombard and Lisle, the same powers as home rule communities, except for the powers to tax, impose fees, or to incur debt. Breen stated, “the General Assembly places restrictions on non-home rule communities, like the villages of Lombard and Lisle, that do not bind home-rule communities. Residents of my district in Lombard and Lisle have the same right to safe housing regulations and public safety regulations as state law allows folks in Glen Ellyn and Wheaton to have. This bill is a common-sense way to give our municipal governments maximum flexibility to set the right policies for their local residents.”
These legislative initiatives will work to better the state, starting with the individual and positively affecting communities as a whole. Rep. Breen is eager to move forward with these bills and is looking ahead to making an impact in the 99th General Assembly.
Click here to read My Suburban Life's article on Gov. Rauner's visit to Lombard.
Click here to read the Chicago Tribune's article on the press conference where Rep. Breen and several suburban legislators proposed reforms to College of DuPage and community colleges in general.
Click here to read My Suburban Life's story on Rep. Breen's proposed legislation that would ban severance agreements larger than one year's salary and benefits. This legislation is in response to the COD "Golden Parachute" scandal.
It’s all too often that government corruption goes unnoticed. But thanks to two watchdog groups and a brave trustee, the public is very aware of the recent golden parachute scandal at College of DuPage. The outcry is in response to the $763,000 early retirement package just awarded by the COD Board to its president, Robert Breuder.
This is the same guy that used taxpayer funds for his private hunt club membership, a wine cellar, and satellite phones for himself and his companions on an African safari.
Last week, I joined over 500 people in public protest of the re-vote of Breuder’s sweetheart deal. The Board scheduled this meeting because the original vote was handled incorrectly. In my address to the Board, I asked them to change their minds, turn this award down, and start this process over.
In the end, the meeting was all for show. The Board members went against the interests of the residents they are sworn to serve, with a 6 to 1 vote in favor of the deal. How can one vote this way, after hearing two hours of compelling public comments? It’s just baffling.
Lots of news outlets covered the Board meeting on TV and in print, including this great article in the Chicago Tribune.
What can we do?
1. Vote for community college trustees like Kathy Hamilton in the upcoming consolidated election on April 7. Trustee Hamilton has been the one bright spot on the COD board, demanding answers and revealing the extravagant waste of tax dollars by Breuder and the rest of that board. The other members of the COD Board were so angry with her watchdog work that they voted to “censure” her, but Kathy doesn’t deserve a “censure,” she deserves an award for uncovering the truth!
2. Tell your General Assembly members to pass laws to reform our community colleges. At a press conference yesterday, I presented the “Breuder Rule” to ban future excessive severance agreements, defined as more than one year’s salary and benefits. As for current severance agreements, which are protected by the U.S. Constitution’s Contracts Clause, we can’t ban them, but we can make sure that homeowners and students don’t have to pay for these abuses. So, the “Breuder Rule” would forbid a community college board from raising property taxes or tuition for the same number of years as the number of years of salary paid out under a severance agreement. The Chicago Tribune wrote about my plan in its editorial today condemning the COD Board.
To save Illinois, we’re going to need reform measures like these at every level, to try to restore the proper balance between the government and the people. This great effort is inspired by the core idea of our American experiment: that the people are in charge of their government, not the other way around.
Lombard, IL - "This is outrageous. There is no precedent for this in a community college setting in Illinois," Breen said. "I hate to say this, but this board has betrayed the trust of this community." Click here to watch.
Lombard, IL - Click here to watch a clip of Rep. Peter Breen addressing the COD board just prior to their controversial golden parachute re-vote last night. Breen encouraged the board to do the right thing, stating that "this board has betrayed the public trust."
Lombard, IL - Just five days after being sworn in as State Representative of the 48th District, Rep. Peter Breen appeared on Chicago Tonight to discuss the spring legislative session, alongside Sen. Kwame Raoul, Sen. Matt Murphy and Rep. Elaine Nekritz. Click here to watch the segment.