Viewpoint: Refund, refund!

Viewpoint: Refund, refund!

By Joe Baker

Refund, refund!

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

These are nervous times in Rockford and Winnebago County. Federal Reserve czar Alan Greenspan has declared we are in a recession.

For people in a manufacturing center like this one, that kind of talk spurs visions of 1982, when we had 25 percent unemployment. One of every four jobs here is tied to manufacturing.

We are getting bits and pieces of the scenario. Each closing of a business or layoffs from an industry get duly reported, but the overall view is lacking.

Rockford’s unemployment level hit 4.9 percent in December, while U.S. jobless numbers were at 4 percent, the lowest in 30 years. Between December 1999 and December of last year, Illinois lost 10,700 industrial jobs. The state’s unemployment figures hit a three-year high last month, standing at 4.8 percent.

A slowdown in automotive sales sounded an ominous note in this town last summer. Parts suppliers here began trimming their workforce, and several of the major industries–such as Ingersoll–saw their supply of orders dwindle to almost nothing.

They have been quietly laying off workers. Now the big auto plant at Belvidere is dropping at least 1,000 from its workforce. Chrysler plans to turn out 26 percent fewer cars and trucks than a year ago. Textron, another major employer and supplier of auto parts, has announced elimination of 3,600 jobs.

Motorola at Harvard is cutting 2,500 jobs, and some smaller businesses, like a bakery and a foundry, are shutting their doors.

An article about Rockford in the Chicago Sun-Times said, “I have never before been struck by such an avalanche of negative economic news,”quoting Bob Aliber, an economist at the University of Chicago.

Against this backdrop of fear and economic uncertainty, the folks in the upper tier of Winnebago County government presented a little more than 900 people with their plans to extend Perryville Road north to Wisconsin.

County officials avoided any direct reference to it, but the implication was there that a massive tax increase, affecting everyone in Winnebago County, will be required to finance the project.

Kris Cohn and others have said only that they estimate the new road will cost more than $30 million. You can bet it will be more than that, probably double.

The county has no money for this wonder work. There’s only one place they can get

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it–you and me. In addition to this headache, there’s District 205, which wants us to cough up a bundle to help them survive the mess they’ve created.

That’s saying nothing about what Gov. George and his minions may have planned for us in the way of taxes, or what the greedy trough hacks in Washington, D.C. might do.

At some point, the people in Rockford and elsewhere in the country must say “enough.” We are being taxed way too much. That’s why there’s a so-called “budget surplus.”

Maybe we ought to organize and demand a refund. Do you think those sterling citizens in the Congress would be amenable to such an idea?

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