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DuPage County Residents to Vote on Three Meaningless Referendum Questions

These referendum questions are an attempt to cherry pick unpopular tax ideas to scare voters about their taxes being raised.

By Dawn DeSart

Candidate for DuPage County Board, District 5

In November, DuPage County voters will see three nonbinding referendum questions on their ballots. These referendum questions are nonbinding, which means that they have “no teeth.” The board can choose to adhere to voters’ desires or not.

The first two referendum questions you will see on your ballot are not even under the jurisdiction of the DuPage County Board.

They are “dog whistles.” For those of you unfamiliar with the term, “dog-whistle politics is political messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different, or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup,” according to Wikipedia. These referendum questions are an attempt to cherry pick unpopular tax ideas to scare voters about their taxes being raised.

The first is about increasing your property taxes by 1% to help reduce state pension debt.

“Shall DuPage County oppose the General Assembly instituting a property tax increase equivalent to 1% of your home’s value to help retire state debt?”

The whole concept of the first referendum question came from three Chicago economists, Thomas Haasl, Rick Mattoon, and Thomas Walstrum. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, the men “argue that paying off the state’s $129.1 billion of unfunded pension obligations cannot be done with revenue from new taxes, such as on a tax on marijuana sales or financial transactions.” So, these three economists came up with the 1% property tax increase plan, saying that by year 30, the unfunded pension obligation would be paid. The state legislature did look into the economists’ plan. In the end, though, the plan never made it out of committee.

What’s interesting about that first question is that the property tax increase would have to be adopted by the Illinois General Assembly and signed by the governor in order to take effect. It has not been adopted by the General Assembly, and it has not been signed by the governor, so why are we even talking about it? Why is this even a referendum question? First, it doesn’t even involve DuPage County government. It bears repeating. The proposed tax increase idea didn’t make it out of legislative committee. If the state legislature isn’t even voting on this failed concept, why are the citizens of DuPage County being asked to? It makes no sense.

The second referendum question discusses a mileage tax.

“Shall DuPage County oppose the creation of a statewide Vehicle Mileage Tax (VMT) which would tax DuPage County citizens based upon the number of miles driven annually?”

Regarding the second referendum question about a mileage tax, legislation was introduced in 2016 in the Illinois General Assembly to create a distance-based, road- user-fee program for the state, which was called the Illinois Road Improvement and Driver Enhancement Act (Senate Bill 3267). However, the bill did not advance. That’s right. Again this bill also did not advance out of committee. It’s yet another attempt to fear monger for something that isn’t there.

The third referendum question deals with consolidating local government.

“Shall DuPage County continue to dissolve and consolidate units of local government to reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and increase accountability?”

This is just silly, because the DuPage County Board has already said they plan to continue consolidating units of local government—taxing bodies—and I applaud that effort where it makes sense and where it is a viable option.

But with regard to the two previous referendum questions, I do not support the state legislature being dissolved into the DuPage County Board preview. Stay in your lane, DuPage County.

Illinois has more taxing bodies (6,963!) than any other state in the country, and many services are redundant and/or obsolete.

But let’s clean our own house first.

Having successfully served on the District 204 School Board, I am fully aware that board work is a team effort, and that there is no “I” in “board.”

I would push for more consolidation of government entities within DuPage County. I would like to see the DuPage County Recorder’s office dissolved into the DuPage County Clerk’s office. I would like to see the DuPage County Board membership reduced from three members per district to two members per district. There is no good reason for each of DuPage County’s six districts to have three representatives. Will County, for example, has two representatives per district. These are only two of the tax-saving measures I’d like to address when I serve on the DuPage County Board. These ideas alone would provide a savings of nearly half a million dollars.

I would never presume to tell someone how to vote, but I will not be answering the DuPage County Board’s referendum questions. They are meaningless pieces of drivel.


A five-time Emmy Award winner, Dawn DeSart is a journalist and local activist. She is running for the DuPage County Board, District 5, and has previously held positions on the Indian Prairie School District 204 School Board, the Wheatland Township Democrats, and the Fox Valley United Way. In 2000, then Naperville mayor A. George Pradel declared May 9th as “Dawn DeSart Day” in Naperville.


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