More than two decades ago, I got involved in my very first initiative campaign.
In 1990, tax-fighter Jim Tobin, then the head of Taxpayers United of Illinois, filed the Tax Accountability Amendment. I organized the petition drive, which gathered more than half-a-million voter signatures to earn a place on the ballot. Polling showed more than 70 percent support for the issue, but a lawsuit by the Chicago Bar Association struck our initiative from the ballot.
The amendment would have mandated a three-fifths vote of both legislative chambers to increase taxes. By requiring public notice and hearings before a tax hike could be enacted, the amendment also promoted transparency in the legislative process — long before the “transparency” buzzword became cool.
Illinois’s very limited initiative process has allowed for only one issue to appear on the state ballot — a successful 1980 measure, cutting back the number of state legislators and electing them in single member districts.
But even without a vote, Tobin wrested a pledge from both candidates for governor to abide by the provisions of the amendment, which the victorious governor stuck to for several years.
Tobin’s group has grown, finding considerable success battling big taxing politicians. It hasn’t forgotten about transparency, either. The group has launched a national campaign to provide the public with information on lavish and unsustainable pensions being collected by public employees.
Tonight, I’ll be with Jim Tobin at a big event in Chicago celebrating the 35th anniversary of his now national anti-tax organization, Taxpayers United of America.
Congratulations, Jim! Thanks for letting me be a part of it.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.