Tinley man’s quest to get tax hike info

Ron has been a member of our tea party since it’s inception! Great job Ron!

Phil Kadner pkadner@southtownstar.com | (708) 633-6787 Jan 9, 2011 02:31AM
Source: http://southtownstar.suntimes.com/news/kadner/3205740-452/swanson-bill-brown-phones-government.html

This is a story of one man’s attempt to find out what his government is up to.

Ron Swanson, 65, of Tinley Park, read news stories about plans in Springfield to increase the state income tax.

“I wanted to find out the bill number, find out what the bill is being called, so I could read the details for myself,” said Swanson, who doesn’t believe everything he reads in the newspapers.

He searched the state’s Web site and couldn’t find any information. Then he telephoned the offices of state Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park) and state Sen. Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest).

“All I got were tape recordings telling me to leave a message,” Swanson said. “I don’t know if they were too busy to answer the phones, out to lunch or just decided not to pick up the phones because they knew angry citizens would be calling. I know that sort of thing happens.”

Next, Swanson called this newspaper to ask for help.

“I wondered if you had the bill number, knew when a vote was going to be held or if there were going to be public hearings and when,” Swanson said.

I told him that it was my belief there was no bill at the present time (Friday afternoon).

Gov. Pat Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) had met and agreed on a general plan that included a sizeable income tax hike (some of it “temporary”) and a $1-a-pack cigarette tax increase.

They allegedly had described that plan to members of the House and Senate. But there was nothing in writing.

Nevertheless, I promised Swanson I would make some calls and find out what was happening.

A spokeswoman for Cullerton confirmed there wasn’t a bill yet. She said Cullerton had done his best to describe details of the plan to members of the news media so they could relay that information to their readers and listeners.

She told me to urge Swanson to call his state legislators. I said he already had done that and gotten only answering machines.

“That’s too bad,” the spokeswoman said. “Someone should be there to answer the phones.”

Next, I called Steve Brown, the spokesman for Mike Madigan. Brown said there wasn’t any bill to read because there was no bill.

I told him about Swanson’s effort to become an informed citizen.

“Well, this budget discussion has been taking place for three years, and he could have plenty of information about the situation if he had been reading the newspapers,” Brown said.

I asked Brown if he had any idea when the House might vote on the bill or when there might be hearings on it.

“There will be hearings, and he’s welcome to come to Springfield,” Brown said of Swanson.

As for the timetable, “Speaker Madigan has said he would call a bill for a vote whenever he had 60 members to support it.”

When might that be?

“I don’t know,” Brown said. “Hopefully, soon.”

The lame-duck session of the General Assembly ends Wednesday.

After talking to Brown, I telephoned the offices of Crotty and McCarthy, just in case they happened to be busy when Swanson made his calls. I also got an answering machine.

A spokeswoman for Quinn also said there is no bill at the present time and that the governor and legislative leaders are still hashing things out. When there is a bill, she said, the governor would do his best to get as much information as possible to the public through the news media and the Internet.

In the meantime, if Swanson wanted to register his concerns with the governor’s Office of Constituent Affairs, he could call (217) 782-0244. I was assured a real person would pick up the phone.

However, when I tried the number, I got a recording telling me the people answering the phones were busy.

I called Swanson to tell him everything I had learned.

“That’s what is wrong with government today,” he said. “I’m retired and basically living on Social Security, and my property taxes keep going up, and my income taxes are going up, and I can’t find out any information from my government officials. There’s no transparency in government. No accountability.

“That’s why I’ve attended some Tea Party meetings because everyone there feels the same way, that our government is no longer responsive to us. Together, we feel like we can force them to answer our questions.

“But you shouldn’t have to join a group like that to get answers. That’s what our representatives are elected to do.”

I agree, but in Illinois I wouldn’t assume they have any answers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *