OUR VIEW: SBDC’s resilience a boon for startups, local economy –

THUMBS UP TO… a resilient resource. A few years ago the ongoing state budget wars threw the much-respected Small Business Development Center program for a loop, as Illinois Valley Community College had to cut its funding and stop hosting the group. After lots of searching for stability, we were glad to report last week about the ongoing success of the agency through the Starved Rock Country Alliance as well as the Streator Incubator and Activity Center. SBDC counselors provide free, individual business advice to entrepreneurs, and those who need physical space to turn ideas into action can do so through the Incubator.

Alliance Director Amy Lambert set a personal goal of taking 10 people new to running a business to fully understanding cash flow and profitability. A new training session starts in early June, and combined with regular activities in Ottawa, Streator, Morris, Pontiac, Dwight and Peru, we expect to see Lambert reach her goal as the Center continues to be an invaluable force in driving the local economy forward.

THUMBS DOWN TO… high hurdles. In the wake of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing states to collect sales taxes from online retailers — even those without a physical presence in the buyer’s state — it was only natural for cities and counties to try to get in on the action. After all, the brick-and-mortar stores have to charge municipal sales tax on top of state rates, and allowing e-tailers to skirt those percentages gives them an unfair advantage over the shops that fuel the local economy, especially through property tax and paying workers.

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Unfortunately, according to Illinois Municipal League Executive Director Brad Cole, “a lot of different organizations, entities and interests need to be aligned to get this right, and … I’m not prepared to say that we have that ready today,” per Capitol News Illinois reporting. We’re not faulting Cole, he’s only giving a frank assessment. We are objecting to logic like that of Illinois Retail Merchants Association President Rob Carr, who implied there are too many administrative burdens to overcome. This understandably won’t be easy, but we shouldn’t accept a system that disadvantages the business that have chosen to heavily invest in our communities.

THUMBS UP TO… difficult decisions. Although some of you have voted already, we know many more are heading to the polls tomorrow for consolidated elections. The majority of local folks who cast a ballot are going to be face with a lot of choices, as there are what seems to be an unusually high number of contested elections for offices like school board and city council. This has proven challenging when it comes to finding enough space in print for candidate profiles and letters and columns supporting various candidates and causes, but that’s precisely the kind of problem we like to have.

Full slates of candidates give voters lots of choices, obviously, but even more important is the campaign season itself, when a wide variety of ideas surface and everyone gets to consider a variety of ways our government bodies might move forward. Theses conversations are useful on their own, and there is significant carryover from supporting a candidate to being invested in the ongoing operations of a council or board, and that type of civic engagement can only help those who get elected truly reflect the wishes of the community at large. Win or lose, we thank everyone who took time to get their name on a ballot and encourage them to do so in the future.

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THUMBS DOWN TO… missing the point. We haven’t resolved our feelings about Gov. JB Pritzker’s plan to do away with a flat income tax in favor of a graduated rate system that takes greater percentages from people who earn more, but we do have concerns about the logic behind a recent plan from Senate Republicans to change the threshold for proposing or raising any new taxes from a simple majority to a two-thirds threshold. According to Capitol News Illinois, state Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 12 will help “protect middle-class residents by giving them a voice in safeguarding their hard-earned money.”

That’s an admirable goal. Fortunately, those residents have a voice under the current system of electing representatives to vote on their behalf in the General Assembly. Eliminating the flat tax would require a constitutional amendment, which means a statewide ballot issue has to pass with 60 percent of voters in favor after first passing with the same numbers in the House and Senate. That’s another chance for voters to have their say. McConchie said unless his SJRCA 12 passes — by the same percentages as the flat tax rescission — simple majorities in the Legislature could set the tax rates and brackets. That sounds exactly like what we elect lawmakers to do on our behalf.


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