Politicos in Illinois have always had a rather expansive view of where government work ended and political activism began. Still, this story gave even this cynical observer pause. As you may know, the Illinois Governor wants to impose a new Gross Receipts Tax on businesses in Illinois to fund the usual litany of bright shiny objects, i.e. universal health care, education, property tax relief. The plan, however, has run into a buzz-saw of criticism and has succeeded in pulling off the rarest of hat-tricks in uniting virtually every office-holder from both parties and the entire business community in opposition. In the face of this, the Governor has launched a full PR blitz in support of the new tax. So far, so typical–politicians routinely use the resources of their office and their bully-pulpits to promote their legislative initiatives. But, the Governor has taken this a step further. He has pushed regional offices of the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to recruit businesses to support the plan. (Can you imagine being a small businessman and fielding that call?) He also has dispatched managers at state agencies to drum up public support for the plan. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services sent e-mails to more than 40,000 people, asking them to call legislators in support of the new tax. Even the state Veterans Affairs agency has been tasked with rounding up support of the tax. We can assume these agency personnel are mostly communicating with people who have some kind of business –or at least a relationshipÃ¢â?¬â??with their department. And the officials are ‘asking’ them to call their legislator to support the new tax. It’s the ultimate “offer you can’t refuse.”
Michael Flynn is Director of Government Affairs for the Reason Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank whose mission is to advance a free society by developing, applying, and promoting libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law.