'Tax' a Dirty Word for Referendums, Study Says

By Krol, Eric | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 2, 2005 | Go to article overview

'Tax' a Dirty Word for Referendums, Study Says


Krol, Eric, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Eric Krol Daily Herald Political Writer

Suburban Cook County residents have been a lot more likely to vote to raise their own taxes in the past decade - provided the question they're voting on omits the word "tax."

From 1995 through the February primary, voters approved proposals in tax referendums without the apparently evil t-word in them at a 69 percent clip. For schools, towns, park districts and the like that used the "tax" word in their question, success came only 43 percent of the time.

That's the key finding of a first-of-its-kind study by Cook County Clerk David Orr tracking referendum results for the past 10 years.

"Generally, I think voters are shrewd. Obviously, they must know the money is coming from somewhere," said Orr in explaining the disparity between the two types of tax questions. "Even though people know they'll have to pay, they're voting to approve."

The central difference, according to the study, is that bond referendums typically don't contain the word "tax," instead asking voters simply whether bonds should be issued, say, to build a new high school. Those were approved at the 69 percent rate, even though voters still will be bearing the brunt in their pocketbook.

It's the other type of tax referendum, the tax rate question, that lagged at 43 percent. Those questions typically ask voters whether the property tax rate should be raised a few cents and often don't explain what the money would be used for.

"It may be that word 'tax,'" Orr said. "Most politicians from both parties make 'tax' seem like an evil word. …

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