Metro-East News

In state rep. contest, one candidate isn’t paying property taxes; the other gets farm subsidies

A candidate who wants to unseat a three-term incumbent in the 108th Illinois House district has not paid property taxes in the past two years, and he probably won’t pay again this year.

The incumbent state representative in the district has received $700,000 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2016, the challenger counters.

Republican Donald Moore, 60, of Troy, who retired from the Marines in 2000, has received a disabled veterans exemption on his property assessment, which excludes him from paying any property taxes on a house he and his wife, Felicia, paid $395,000 for in 2012, according to Madison County property records.

Moore said he saves about $8,000 a year in property tax because of the exemption.

Moore is challenging 58-year-old State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, in the primary on March 20. The winner will be the Republican candidate for 108th House district in the November election.

meier moore composite
State Rep. Charlie Meier, left, and primary challenger Don Moore, right. Provided

Meier grows corn, soybeans and wheat on his 1,500-acre farm that has been in his family since 1905.

According to data compiled by the Environmental Working Group, a nonpartisan Washington-based research group, Meier has received more $700,000 in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2016, which is an average of about $31,858 a year.

90 percent disability

Moore, who spent 20 years in the Marines and retired as a major, as been rated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as being 90 percent disabled. He worked in logistics for the Marines and then, after going to finance school, worked at the corps’ headquarters in budgeting.

In Illinois, military veterans who have a 70 percent or higher disability rating from the VA qualify for the full property tax exemption on their primary residence. The disability must be connected to their military service.

Moore said wear and tear from dropping to the ground and rolling, along with carrying the weight of gear during training, added up. He said running while wearing boots on pavement also can take its toll.

Moore eventually had a right hip replacement in 2004 and followed it up with a left knee replacement a year later.

Moore said that in addition to the hip and knee issues, his lower back has lumbar damage, and he suffered hearing loss from being around artillery rounds and weapons fire.

“My body is messed up, (after) being 20 years in the Marine Corps, it’s a way they compensate veterans,” Moore said. “Just like any veteran, I feel I deserve it, and any other veteran that receives a rating from the VA. If they have a disability rating and whatever they get, I believe they deserve that, too.”

Meier said he had been made aware of Moore’s property tax breaks, but wouldn’t comment directly on them.

“I’m not looking into that,” Meier said. “It is what it is. I pay my property taxes, I know that, but I’m not going to go out and check into his ... I’m not commenting on that.”

Moore has received the exemption the last two years, and plans to apply for it again this year, he said.

“(The law) is not something I lobbied for,” Moore said. “I didn’t know anything about it. It just happened; I couldn’t believe it.”

Moore, who makes about $14,500 a year being a Madison County Board member, said he’s saving for college for his daughters, and not paying property taxes helps him out.

“I have a nice little subsidy that I get from the state taxpayer because of my disability,” Moore said. “I will look in anyone’s face and say I do have a disability. I applied for it. But it’s not something they just give out. It’s got to be real. These joint replacements are real. I endured a lot of pain before, during and after. But now its good.”

Farm subsidies

Meier says the subsidies he receives annually help his farm, but don’t guarantee he will turn a profit.

The federal subsidies help ensure food is more affordable and keeps food safe, Meier said.

He also said he pays state and federal income taxes on the subsidies he receives.

“That’s not free money,” said Meier, who added that the money goes back into the economy. “The dollars turn over and over again.”

Meier also added that farmland property assessments south of Interstate 70 are increasing at faster rates than other farm property in the state, to help even out assessments of farmland, which could take several more years.

Meier said his farm has an annual budget of $800,000 to $900,000 a year.

“If you make 5 percent, you would consider it a pretty good year,” Meier said.

He said he takes out a loan each year to run the crop-growing operation, and that type of investment requires paying for crop insurance.

“If we don’t get a crop, we can’t pay those notes for hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Meier said.

Cancel each other out?

John Jackson, a visiting professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, said any negative affects politically for Moore and Meier would probably cancel each other out.

“We are generous as a nation and as a state to both constituencies, and generous toward veterans and beyond that disabled veterans,” Jackson said. “And we have a long history of being generous to farmers as well.”

Meier and Moore are the only candidates seeking the Republican nomination in the district, which leans Republican. No one has filed to seek the Democratic nomination.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter