$10.63 a Vote Passes Rockford Roads Sales Tax Referendum

McHenry County political consultant Jim Thacker,

  • who cut his teeth getting Don Manzullo elected in 1992,
  • made his statewide reputation by engineering Al Salvi’s U.S. Senate primary victory in 1996 and
  • re-enforced it when he managed Rockford independent candidate for Mayor Larry Morrison’s campaign two years ago,

has added another big victory to his list.

According to the Rockford Register-Star, the tax hiking referendum committee, Citizens for Rebuilding Rockford, which Thacker advised as a volunteer, raised and spent $135,000.

Election night returns reported in the Register-Star show the referendum results were 12,698 to 9,337 with only 26% of the voters bothering to show up at the polls.

The cost per “Yes” vote?


Supporters apparently used the pitch that a pay-as-you go approach was cheaper than borrowing and paying back the money to build the roads and sidewalks, as well as interest on the loan.

Reporter Bob Schaper summed it up this way:

“In past years, roads had been paid for through the annual sale of bonds, backed by property taxes. (Larry) Morrissey and the City Council said the sales tax was more efficient because it saved on interest payments and permitted nonresidents to help pay through purchases.”

The tax is the best kind of tax from Rockford’s point of view.

Lots of it will be paid by people who do not live in Rockford, but who utilize Rockford as their regional shopping stop.

The sales tax rate will go up from 7.25 percent to 8.25 percent.

That’s an almost 14% increase in sales tax.

Revenues–about $90 million during the life of the tax–will be used for roads, flood control and other forms of public infrastructure, according to the paper.

According to reporter Schaper, after studying the vote returns from a November, 2006, road referendum loss, Thacker concluded,

The information that came back was that a lot of the voters didn’t understand that they were voting for or against fixing the roads. That’s why this time the focus was primarily on calling everybody’s attention to the fact that this was the road referendum.

The opponents had $100,000 supplied by local gas station chain Road Runner owner Dan Arnold, which was available to be spent by the political action committee Winnebago County Taxpayer Advocates.

The cost per “No” vote?

About $9.34.

State Senator Dave Syverson has introduced legislation that would allow the new sales tax to be collected beginning July 1st, rather than next January 1st, as is the case under current law, the Rockford paper reports.

The Rockford paper endorsed the referendum.

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The photograph is of Rockford’s Mayor Larry Morrissey. His administration was behind the referendum.

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