In the crazy world in which we live, a blog looking to make sense of it all.

Friday, March 30, 2007

SB 500 Passes

Illinois Senate Bill 500 advanced yesterday with a 34-23 vote. This bill is a statewide smoking ban bill which would outlaw smoking in all public places, including restaurants and bars.

You hear about all these smoking bans and it is played up as really popular and wanted. This bill passed with just shy of 60%; not actually a landslide margin. The House has a bill in the works but has not been voted upon yet.

Doesn't this state already have enough bad legislation in place? I am a non-smoker and I do not agree with these smoking bans in restaurants, bars and such. While I favor smoking bans in most public places, especially where individuals have legitimate business to do, restaurants and bars are completely elective places to frequent. Additionally, I would favor that these establishments place signage indicating whether they are a smoking or smoke free environment. This way, the individual and the business owner decides who to cater to and which establishment to enter; not the government.

Furthermore, smoking bans are just another step to losing our freedoms. Last I checked, using tobacco was legal for adults. But before long, there will be a smoking ban in your own home. Don't think it's possible? The government came into our own automobiles and mandated that we wear seat belts. Sure it's a smart and safe thing to do, but what right does the government have to make you to do this? It's your car! It's your life! Just wait until someone crys out that smokers who smoke in the privacy of their own home are hurting their kids, pets, guests, whatever.

The Illinois legislature is setting up another Prohibition. People will continue to smoke, whether it's in their favorite watering hole or in a back room speakeasy. How well will this smoking ban be enforced? That probably depends upon the local municipality. And along state borders, they'll simply drive over the state line and give adjacent states the sales tax revenue.

And just one question I'd like to ask these non-smoking proponents of the smoking ban; are you going to now patronize several seedy, hole in the wall, dives that were once filled with smokers once this ban goes into effect? I'm going to guess not; they will continue to frequent the Starbucks, TGI Fridays, country clubs and other establishments which are already non-smoking by choice. Maybe these smoking bans should enforce its supporters to regularly visit these taverns as they'll need the business.

The sarcastic, wise ass in me says that those who really want this smoking ban are those same people in high school and college who saw you and your friends having fun, but then called the cops or the Dean to rat you out because they couldn't stand to see someone else having a good time. These people's asses are so tight that it is impossible for them to have fun and thus, they want to ruin it for everyone.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Riverfront Debacle Continues

From Jennifer Davis' article in today's Peoria Journal Star regarding last night's council meeting:

Approved 9-1, with Sandberg opposed, a "Phase II" agreement with local developer Mike Wisdom, who proposes a $5 million, three-story office building at Riverfront Village. Wisdom's initial project at Riverfront Village, including Old Chicago restaurant and the now-vacant Damon's restaurant, has failed to break even as promised, noted Sandberg. City staff agreed that the project is subsidized by about $100,000 annually from the Downtown (TIF) tax increment finance district.

Still, both Wisdom and [Randy] Oliver told the council they are confident this development - through additional property taxes on the office building and parking revenues - will end the need for subsidy.

How many times have the Peoria taxpayers heard this story? Every development project downtown has failed and has cost the city hundreds of thousands. These developers and the city leadership have a horrible track record with these investments.

Of course, there was no mention to whether this new development fits into the guidelines of the Heart of Peoria plan. But why bother because I seriously doubt that any of them, with exception to Gary Sandberg, ever plan to implement the HOP because it's probably a hurdle to what they really want to do or curtail how much money developers could actually make.

Common Sense of it All: With all the vacant buildings in town already, do we really need more office space? Expect more losses. Kudos to Gary Sandberg for standing ground.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hard Times For Illinois Businesses?

I waited to blog about this until Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced his budget plans yesterday, though he was already hinting about what it involved. It was about what I expected and it is not good.

His budget plan, which is set to go into effect for the next fiscal year, pending approval from the Illinois legislature, calls for what is reported the largest tax increase in Illinois history by implementing a gross receipts tax. This gross receipts tax is the centerpiece of his budget plan, which Blagojevich believes will bring in $6 billion annually. It also calls for an initial outlay of $2.1 billion for health care coverage for the 1 million plus Illinois citizens with little or no health insurance. It also includes spending another $3 billion for education and the construction of new schools.

The budget plan also includes refinancing $16 billion in overdue pension debt with a bond issue paying lower interest.

For starters, there are some good intentions for what this budget tries to accomplish. Improving the quality of education is what I consider more of an investment in our community than some expense. Providing universal health coverage for those that need it helps with the quality of life. Everyone in this day and age should have access to quality and affordable health care. But this budget plan is horrible and will not achieve these goals. Instead, it will probably spill more red ink on the state's books and leave massive underfunded mandates to deal with.

Illinois businesses are already having a tough time in 2007. When the governor was campaigning last year, we already knew he wanted to raise the state's minimum wage. Business have dealt with this before and could do so again. Then at the start of the year, electricity rates skyrocketed well over what AmerenCilco projected it would be. Now Blagojevich wants to initiate a gross receipts tax, where basically the government wants its cut before a business owner can pay for his cost of goods sold, suppliers, overhead and employees. These are all too many hurdles for businesses to deal with in such a short amount of time.

Businesses are a big part of the state's economy. If businesses are strong and doing well, the economy will be doing well. A strong economy means low unemployment and more workers. Tax revenues will increase with a strong economy and accordingly opposite when times are bad. The state budget should be drafted to foster a positive environment to allow businesses, and individuals and families, to do well. It would be in the best interest of the state. However, this mess Blagojevich announced yesterday does not do this. What does he think that companies and businesses do with their money? If Illinois businesses leave the state or become financially weak, the state economy will falter and we'll have more problems because tax revenues will fall, not increase.

Who will get hurt the most from this debacle? Consumers and workers. As the government takes money right off the top, there will be less money for companies to pay their expenses. And companies will first pay suppliers, utilities and such before employees and/or their benefits. To make ends meet, prices will have to be raised, which Blagojevich knows that will just translate to more tax money coming in. Does this man even care about the people in this state? He's been holed up in his Chicago bunker for so long I don't think he knows what it's like to run a business or to be in the real world.

As for taking on these massive spending plans, the state of Illinois is in no fiscal and financial position to do so. As Blagojevich campaigned last fall, he contended that the budget was balanced and all was well. However, that is far from the real truth. The state was not paying any of it's bills and continued holding large amounts of pension debt. Comptroller Dan Hynes, a fellow Democrat, even criticized Blagojevich's actions.

I seriously doubt Blagojevich's plan as announced yesterday will ever go into effect. At best, his short speech received weak support. I think the gross receipt tax will turn out to be very unpopular with the citizens of Illinois and no legislator will touch it. The refinancing of pension debt I think is a quick fix solution that would save some money in interest expense, but it's still debt. I hope he doesn't plan to use that "band aid" for a long term solution.

Common Sense of it All: Many Republicans say that Democrats always tax and spend. Gov. Blagojevich is proving just that.