Saturday, December 9, 2017

Killing the state and local tax deduction may be unconstitutional. Here's why

Column

Article below is from:  http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-salt-deduction-20171208-story,amp.html



Killing the state and local tax deduction may be unconstitutional. Here's why

A rally participant holds a sign protesting a Republican-crafted tax cut plan outside the U.S. Capitol Building. (Reynold /EPA/Shutterstock)

Michael HiltzikContact Reporter

The debate over eliminating the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes — a linchpin of the Republican tax cut plans now working their way through Congress — has focused on the economic and political effects of the change. But that may be the wrong discussion. The question is whether eliminating the deduction is even constitutional. History suggests that it’s not.

The most cogent analysis of this issue comes to us from the grave — specifically, from the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.). Moynihan addressed the issue in a 1985 speech, later published in the political science journal Publius.

Leaders of states that rely on state and local income taxes for a large share of their revenue, including California, have threatened to bring a legal challenge to a tax bill that eliminates the deduction. They would do well to take their lead from Moynihan.

There are arenas of government that must not be invaded by other governments. — The late Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan, 1985

At the time of his speech, the state and local tax deduction was under attack by the Reagan administration, which like today’s GOP, was looking for ways to pay for a tax cut for the rich. Moynihan labeled the idea “a profound constitutional error.”

Moynihan drew his argument from the principle of federalism enshrined in the Constitution, the essence of which is that “there are arenas of government that must not be invaded by other governments.” He observed that the notion that this applied to taxation had been understood dating back to the origins of the federal income tax, enacted under Abraham Lincoln to finance the Civil War.

The Revenue Act of 1862, Moynihan noted, provided that federal tax liability was to be calculated only after state and local taxes were first deducted, “and this under the most pressing emergency conditions ever faced by our country.” The deduction was enshrined in the Revenue Act of 1913, which created the modern federal income tax.

A few contemporary commentators have noticed that eliminating the SALT deduction, as it’s known today, invades local prerogatives. Progressive pundit John Stoehr wrote recently that the change would be “a violation of the states' rights the Republicans say they alone represent.” At the other end of the ideological spectrum is Stan Veuger, a fellow of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who called the deduction “a linchpin of the federalist system,” which “expresses our preference for local solutions to local problems.”

But that’s definitely a minority approach. Virtually the entire debate over the current tax cut bills has treated the SALT deduction as just another loophole, akin to the mortgage interest deduction, that favors the wealthy. The political component of the discussion relies on the fact that the states with the highest percentage of residents claiming the deduction — such as California, New York, New Jersey and Maryland — tend to vote Democratic. In our denatured political discourse, the idea that Republicans in Congress would turn their gun sights on Democratic states is seen as sort of adorable.

It’s also commonly argued that, insofar as the deduction is most heavily concentrated in big, urban states, it’s tantamount to a “subsidy” of blue states by their poorer red neighbors.

Moynihan, a New York Democrat, albeit one who wasn’t averse to taking a conservative stance on issues from time to time, had little regard for these arguments. He thought it inaccurate to label the deduction a “tax expenditure” — a term used to describe giveaways to favored groups through the tax code. “I do not think we should let the Treasury Department get away with calling it a federal ‘subsidy,’ ” he added. “In diplomacy, this is known as semantic infiltration: if the other fellow can get you to use his words, he wins.”

In any event, the notion that other states “subsidize” big blue states through the SALT deduction happens to be wrong. As New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli demonstrated in a 2016 study, the “subsidy” generally goes in the other direction: The states with the largest state and local tax burdens typically paid out more to the federal coffers than they received in return. The states with the biggest outflow were those on the West Coast and Northeast, and those receiving the largest inflows tended to be Southern states with low state and local taxes.

Another principle Moynihan discussed was the issue of “double taxation.” Interestingly, an aversion to “double taxation” is frequently cited by Republicans and conservatives to justify reducing or eliminating taxes on dividends — dividends already are taxed once as corporate income, so why should they be taxed again when they’re received by shareholders.

Big states with high state and local taxes tend to be net contributors to federal coffers, shown here in red. The majority (green) get more from the federal government than their residents pay. (New York State Comptroller)

But eliminating the SALT deduction would be a more far-reaching example of double taxation, Moynihan said, citing a resolution by the National League of Cities calling the deduction “a fundamental statement of the historical right of state and local governments to raise revenues and of individuals not to be double taxed.” As it happens, the Supreme Court has spoken on the issue of double-taxation: It’s wrong. In a 2015 decision written by Justice Samuel Alito, the court ruled that a Maryland provision denying its taxpayers credit for taxes paid to other states was unconstitutional. Expect the states’ challenges to the GOP tax bill to cite that ruling (Comptroller vs. Wynne) prominently.

In 1862, Moynihan noted, Rep. Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont, then chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, warned that eliminating the SALT deduction would “perplex and jostle, if … not actually crush, some of the most loyal States of the Union.” Moynihan called it a “huge and final irony” that eliminating the deduction would transfer more resources to the federal government, allowing it to grow larger — exactly the outcome that the advocates of “small government” in the Republican congressional caucus say they don’t want.

Moynihan and his colleagues managed to defeat the Reagan administration’s effort to eliminate the SALT deduction. Subsequent efforts also failed. At this moment, the GOP plan to take an ax to the SALT deduction looks like a juggernaut. But history and the Constitution may say otherwise.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Boone County officials could take months to approve solar ordinance Most Popular

Boone County officials could take months to approve solar ordinance

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By Susan Vela
Staff writer

Posted Dec 6, 2017 at 10:38 PM Updated Dec 6, 2017 at 10:40 PM

BELVIDERE — Boone County officials debated new rules meant to regulate solar farms on Wednesday, and there was no consensus after about two hours of discussion.

Land Use Planner Hilary Rottmann told members of the Planning, Zoning and Building Committee she would review their concerns about setbacks, screening, fencing and other matters for further talks next month.

Once the committee approves the ordinance, it must go before other bodies like the Zoning Board of Appeals and the County Board before Boone County has clear guidelines for solar enterprises.

The rigorous process could further delay Cypress Creek Renewables’ plan to bring Boone County its first solar farms — along Reeds Crossing Road between Genoa and Spring Center roads, and off of Illinois 173, east of Capron.

Also, TerraNavigator wants to construct a solar energy project on a closed landfill along Illinois Route 76, north of Belvidere. A formal presentation is expected this month.

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“It was a very good continuation of the discussion,” said Denny Ellingson, the committee chairman, after Wednesday’s lengthy discussion. “We got much more in depth tonight and got a lot more out in the open.”

The draft ordinance is five pages long and requires such things as structures not exceeding 30 feet in height, fencing six feet high, and noise levels that should not be detectable by the human ear at 500 feet from the property line.

Much of Wednesday’s debate was spent on how to ensure that facilities are properly removed after their useful life is up.

“I would like to know the weight, the volume, the ability to remove any of the items to either the recycling yards, the steelyards or to the landfills if that’s required,” committee member Marshall Newhouse said.

Tricia Gieseke, who lives in the 7700 block of Reeds Crossing Road, near the proposed development, said solar panels don’t belong near her home.

“There is an industrial park in Boone County where solar energy could be built,” she said, reading from a statement. “There is the vacant Kmart land that was once farm ground that could also be used instead of eliminating prime agricultural ground on Reeds Crossing.

“There are better choices for this commercial operation.”

Susan Vela: 815-987-1392; svela@rrstar.com; @susanvela

Above is from:  http://www.rrstar.com/news/20171206/boone-county-officials-could-take-months-to-approve-solar-ordinance

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Boone County’s Proposed Solar Farm Ordinance

This is the proposed ordinance which will be discussed and possibly voted on this Wednesday 12-6-2017 at the Planning, Zoning and Building Committee.

Below is taken from: 


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KEY: P = Permitted Use S = Special Use T = Temporary Use A = Accessory Use

4.19 SOLAR ENERGY DEVELOPMENT

4.19.1 Intent: The purpose of this section is to protect public health and safety through establishing reasonable standards for the construction, installation, and operation of solar energy developments in Boone County.

DESIGN STANDARDS - The design standards and bulk regulations listed for all zoning districts for setbacks, lot size, lot coverage, lot area, height, and signage shall be suspended for all solar energy development and the following regulations shall apply instead. All other design standards and bulk regulations of the respective districts shall apply.

FOUNDATIONS - A qualified engineer shall certify that the foundation and design of the solar panels is within accepted professional standards, given local soil and climate conditions.

INSTALLATION AND DESIGN- Individual arrays/solar panels shall be designed and located in order to prevent glare toward any residential dwellings on adjacent properties as well as adjacent street rights-of-way.

a) All drainage tiles shall be repaired or restored to same or better condition as to when project began.

b) Boone County Soil and Water Conservation District shall be contacted prior to beginning development to locate drainage district tiles.

c) Electrical lines shall be inspected before burial.

HEIGHT- Systems, equipment and structures shall not exceed 30 feet in height when ground mounted. Excluded from this height requirement, however, are electric transmission lines and utility poles.

SETBACKS -Ground mounted solar energy systems as part of a solar energy development shall have a setback for all equipment, excluding fences, a minimum of 75 feet on the front from right-of-way and 40 feet from all other property lines, with the exception of adjacent properties containing residential dwellings.  The setback for all equipment, excluding fences, from the property line of adjacent properties containing residential dwellings shall be 150 feet.  No setback is required for contiguous parcels that both contain a part of any one solar energy development.

SCREENING AND FENCING- Systems equipment and structures shall be fully enclosed and secured by a fence with a minimum height of 6 feet.

a) Solar Energy Developments shall have a 25 foot wide buffer of which part shall be consisting of a compact evergreen hedge or other type of evergreen foliage which shall be along the road frontage and perimeter of any adjacent single family dwelling.

b) The buffer shall be planted at a minimum of three (3) feet tall and with the expectation that this hedge shall reach the height of at least six (6) feet within five years and shall be maintained in good condition. Dead evergreen foliage shall be replaced.

c) A landscape plan in accordance with Section 5.4 of the Boone County Zoning Ordinance shall be submitted to the planning department for review. The landscape plan shall take into account the type(s) of evergreens to be planted, along with the proposed spacing of the plantings, along with an evaluation of the soils.

d) Topographical features and existing wooded areas may be accepted in lieu or in combination of the above requirements, if they conceal the use from public view and are maintained. Must be approved by Planning Department.

e) The landscape plan shall also incorporate native grasses, flowers, plants which will provide wildlife and pollinator habitat, soil erosion protection and/or aid in strengthening the soil structure. This shall not be part of the evergreen screen, but shall be for all other areas of the solar farm that will not interfere with the solar arrays.

LIGHTING- A photometric plan shall be submitted to and approved by the planning department prior to a building permit being issued. All free standing and wall mounted security light fixtures shall not exceed 30 feet in height. The lighting elements shall be shielded from view of adjacent properties and the foot candle measurement at the property line shall not exceed 0.5. If the applicant chooses to apply safety lighting to the power plant stacks, said lighting can exceed the 30-foot height limit but shall not exceed a measurement of 0.5 foot-candles at the property line. Applicant is responsible for hiring contractor to perform tests to confirm that lighting does not exceed 0.5 foot-candles at property line during construction and completion of construction. The Boone County Building Department has the right to approve firm to perform assessment.

NOISE- Noise levels when the solar energy development is in production shall not be detectable by the human ear measured at 500 feet from the property line when the solar energy development is located adjacent to an existing residence.  This noise restriction applies to permanently installed solar equipment and excludes noise from routine maintenance, repair, and construction.

SIGNAGE - an appropriate warning sign shall be provided at the entrance to the facility and along the perimeter to the solar energy development project. The sign at the entrance to the facility shall include the facility’s 911 address and a 24 hour emergency contact number.

PERMIT REQUIREMENTS

1) A site plan with existing conditions showing the following:

a) Existing property lines and property lines extending five hundred feet from the exterior boundaries, including the names of adjacent property owners and current use of those properties.

b) Exiting public and private roads, showing widths of the roads and any associated easements.

c) Location and size of any existing and abandoned wells and sewage treatments systems.

d) Existing buildings and any impervious surfaces.

e) A contour map showing topography at two (2) foot intervals. A contour map of surrounding properties may also be required.

f) Existing vegetation (list type and percent of coverage: i.e. cropland/plowed fields, grassland, wooded areas etc.)

g) Waterways, watercourses, lakes and public water wetlands

h) Any delineated wetland boundaries.

i) A copy of the current FEMA FIRM map that shows the subject property. And, the one hundred year flood elevation and any regulated flood protection elevation, if available.

j) Floodway, flood fringe and/or general flood plain district boundary, if applicable and not provided on the copy of the current FEMA FIRM map.

k) Mapped soils according to the Boone County Soil Survey.

l) Surface water drainage patterns.

m) The location of any subsurface drainage tiles.

2) Site Plan of Proposed Conditions:

a) Location, number, and spacing of solar panels.

b) Location of access roads and access points.

c) Planned location of underground or overhead electric lines connecting the solar farm to a building, substation or other electric load.

d) New electrical equipment other than at the existing building or substation that is to be the connection point for the solar farm.

e) Certified drawings of elevation of the premises accurately depicting proposed solar energy conversion system.

f) Weed/Grass control- Applicant must present an acceptable weed control plan for property inside and outside fenced area for entire property. Site must maintained to prevent fire hazards and in compliance with State and Federal environmental regulations. No soil sterilant shall be permitted to be used on the solar site.

DECOMMISSIONING PLAN

A decommission plan shall be required for solar energy development projects and to ensure that facilities are properly removed after their useful life.

a) Decommissioning of solar panels must occur in the event they are not in use for twelve (12) consecutive months. The operating company and or land owner have six months to complete the decommission plan.

b) The Boone County Board has authority by majority vote to extend the time frame to complete repairs causing inoperability upon written request outlining reasons why an extension is needed. Request for extension must be received no later than 60 days prior to the deadline.

c) The plan shall include provisions for removal of all structures (including equipment, fencing and roads), foundations, restoration of soil and vegetation.

d) Prior to the issuance of a building permit, owner/developer shall submit bond(s) to cover the cost of Decommissioning. The prorated amount of the bond(s) shall be based on an independent engineer's estimate and increased annually to reflect the building schedule as to cover the additional improvements as they are constructed, starting with the issuance of the first building permit. At the completion of construction and prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy, the bond(s) must total 150% of the Engineer's estimate of the total decommission costs. It shall be the responsibility of owner/developer to maintain the bonds in sufficient amounts at all times after the completion of construction. Such responsibility to maintain the bond(s) shall include, but not be limited to, any necessary renewals or the issuance of new bond(s). All bonds shall be submitted to the Boone County Building Department. Boone County has the right to approve the individual or firm that conducts the independent Engineer’s estimate for the total decommissioning bond costs.

e) An update to this decommissioning plan shall be submitted to the Boone County Building Department every three years. In addition, decommissioning plans signed by the party responsible for decommissioning and the landowner (if different) shall be submitted with the application.

f) The county reserves the right to require additional information or components to the plan as the county deems necessary to ensure that an adequate proposal is in place to decommission the facility in its entirety and that adequate funds are available.

g) Actual on site construction must commence within 2 years of application approval by the Boone County Board or permits will no longer be valid. The Boone County Board has authority by majority vote to extend the time frame. Requests for extensions must be received no later than 60 days prior to the 2nd anniversary date of the special use permit.

FEES AND COSTS

The following fees shall apply for Solar Energy Development Permits.

Fees

No solar energy development special use permit application shall be accepted until the filing fee is paid and the following:

a) Accompanied by a notarized statement of the appropriate corporate officials or official legal representative of the applicant that the applicant will pay to the county additional fees to reimburse the county for moneys expended in excess of $500.00 in preparing for, processing, reviewing and evaluating the application to its final resolution.

b) The applicant shall also agree in said notarized statement to stop all proceedings if an invoice for reimbursement to the county is not paid to the county treasurer within ten days after the invoice has been presented to the appropriate corporate officer or official legal representative of the applicant.

Remedial costs

a) Liability Insurance- The owner or operator of the solar project shall maintain a current and general liability policy covering bodily injury and property damage with limits of at least two million dollars per occurrence and twenty million dollars in the aggregate. The owner or operator of the solar project shall maintain this policy for the lifetime of the solar project and submit a copy of the same to the Boone County board at each renewal. The County of Boone and its officials shall be named as additional insured’s.

b) Severability- If any section, clause, or provision of this ordinance is declared unconstitutional or otherwise invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, said declaration shall not affect the validity of the remainder of the ordinance as a whole or any part thereof, other than the part so declared to be unconstitutional or invalid.

c) Indemnification- The applicant, owner and/or operator of the solar project shall defend, indemnify, and hold harmless the County of Boone and its officials from and against any and all claims, demands, losses, suites, class of action, damages, injuries, costs, expenses and liabilities whatsoever, including attorney’s fees, without limitation arising out of acts of omissions of the applicant, owner and/or operator associated with the construction and/or operator associated with the construction and/or operation of the solar project.

d) Public Nuisance- Any solar project declared to be unsafe by the Boone County Board by reason of inadequate maintenance, dilapidation, obsolescence, fire hazard, damage, or abandonment is hereby declared a Public Nuisance and shall be abated by repair, rehabilitation, demolition, or removal in accordance with the procedure set forth in this ordinance.

The zoning board of appeals may grant a variance to such setback requirement if the proposed or existing buffer is sufficient to screen the project from view from adjoining property or public rights-of -way, if the owners of the adjoining properties agree to waive these setback requirements. All solar farms shall be in compliance with any applicable local, state and federal regulatory standards.

Boone County’s Primary offers few (if any) choices

Below are the filings for precinct committeemen and county elected officials for the March 2018 primary.  There are few if any choices at the county level. 

Please do remember that the county for the fourth time is running a referendum for an increase in the sales tax during the primary vote.  It is for public safety but these new funds can be use as a substitute for other revenues currently funding public safety thereby freeing funds for any use.

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No challengers.

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There are two seats available for each county board district seat—so no challengers.



Precinct Committeemen 


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It appears that Belvidere 9 has a race for Republican committeeman assuming no late withdrawal.


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No challenges.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

How much would Boone County have to pay its Administrator if he retired?

THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS

Well like so many questions you ask Boone County it leads just to more questions.  Here is a summary of what I have discovered.

First the reason for this inquiry.  Each year the county pays some individual  tens of thousands of dollars at retirement for unused annual leave and sick leave.  Board Member Cathy Ward has a list of some of the sums which together amount in the hundreds of thousands over the years. (I hope to supply your some of the numbers later).  In an attempt to understand the situation I ask Mr. Terrinoni, the County Administrator, for his accumulated leave and have attempted to calculate how much the county would owe him if he would leave.

Below is his response to my FOIA request.

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Here is my Freedom of Information Request:

During the last several years the county has paid out tens of thousands of dollars to retirees for unused sick leave, unused annual leave and unused compensated time (comp time) for unpaid overtime etc.

Under the Freedom of Information Act please provide the following information:

1. A copy of all policies or county ordinances which limit the accumulation of the various types of leave or deadline the use of such leave.

2. You as a highly paid official maybe eligible for a very large such payment at retirement.

Please provide the following information for County Administrator, Ken Terrinoni, as of November 30, 2017 or a more convenient recent pay period.

a. Accumulated annual leave

b. Accumulated sick leave

c. Any and all leave for comp time

d. Hourly rate to be used to calculate the dollar amount based upon your current salary

e. The number of hours and fractions of hours to be considered one full day for leave purposes

f. Please indicate which county office/department (other than your Admin Office) maintain the current balance for each type of your leave.

3. Accounting wise, does the county reserve/accrue for unpaid leave? If so when and under what account heading? When the retiree is granted the leave which accounting heading/account pays the unpaid leave?

4. What determines which of these leaves payments require personal withholding to Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund?

5. Thank you for your cooperation.

BILL PYSSON


If Mr. Terrinoni would retire/resign today the following would be owed:  $50,269


Hourly rate:  $126,092/2080 hours per year= $60.62 per hour.

Annual Leave owed:  402.5 hours X $60.62 =  $24,400.

Sick Leave payment due;  720 HOURS   AS A RETIREE WITH 20 YEARS:   first 427. 5  HOURS  x .75 x 60.62 = $19,436 plus 292.5 hours X .25 X $60.62 = $4,433  Therefore Total Sick Leave $25,869.


Boone County Vacation/sick leave Policy


Past payments of accumulated sick leave and vacation for retiring staff

This information is from Cathy Ward’s FOIA and subsequent report to the Boone County Board.

ward 4 001


ward 1 001

ward 3 001


ward 2 001


THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS