Editorials

Scrutinize your local government so Sunshine Week lasts all year

What do public employees make compared to you?

Each year the salaries of public employees such as teachers, police and politicians in southwestern Illinois are collected into a searchable database at BND.com/publicpay. Here is how much in taxes it takes to pay government workers, and how their
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Each year the salaries of public employees such as teachers, police and politicians in southwestern Illinois are collected into a searchable database at BND.com/publicpay. Here is how much in taxes it takes to pay government workers, and how their

We're late in wishing you a happy Sunshine Week, seeing as this is the last day of the March 11-17 celebration of keeping government honest by keeping its records open.

But late is OK in this instance, because being late is the topic.

Each year those who are elected to serve the public as well as the top public workers who make purchasing and contract decisions must expose their personal finances, to a degree. The Economic Interest Statement required by state law most often states "not applicable" to the eight questions about gifts and outside work and personal income sources related to government.

For example, St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern listed a cash gift from his parents worth more than $500, a gain from his Disney stock worth more than $5,000 and his heating and cooling company, Belleville Mechanical, as doing business with government from which he gained more than $1,200. The other five questions in his 2017 statement are answered "not applicable."

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert answered "not applicable" to all eight questions. That would indicate his wife's floral shop did less than $1,200 worth of business with governments.

But as to the "late" issue, there is a May 1 deadline for filing these forms. After that there is a $15 late fee. Then after May 16 there is a $100-a-day fine.

In St. Clair Township, none of the four trustees or town clerk completed economic interest statements. Each of them could face a fine of $30,615 as of today.

"That's not a good thing," township Supervisor Dave Barnes said. He filed his statement.

After going through all the statements for 2017, there are 74 missing in St. Clair County and its many local units of government, including 12 from East St. Louis. The potential fines total $2.26 million.

Illinois has the nation's highest state and local tax burden, costing the average household 15 percent of its income at $8,299, according to a new WalletHub report.

We like the idea of holding that $2.26 million in fines over the heads of those deciding how to spend your money in this state of 6,968 government units, which tops the nation by a margin of 2,000.

Any chance there is a link between Illinois being the most-taxed and having so much government?

Make every week Sunshine Week by asking for a public record. Investigate how your taxes are being spent, and maybe that simple act will build the political will to cut government and your high taxes.

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