Jim Tobin, A Friend Of Liberty (1945-2021)

By: Christina Tobin

Sometimes a single man or woman has to stand up for principle, just so the rest of us are reminded that principles exist. Such a man was Jim Tobin. 

Illinois lost its premier tax-fighter in December 2021 when Jim Tobin, president of Taxpayers United of America and Taxpayer Education Foundation, passed away at his home in Berwyn, Illinois.

While Tobin was well known for his nearly five decades of work resulting in defeating more than 400 tax increases on the citizens of Illinois, particularly the elderly, it was his relentless tenacity in fighting for what he thought to be right that was his true measure.

Jim was once described this way: “Tobin envisions himself as a modern-day Patrick Henry beating back ‘tax-eating’ politicians with the same fervor that inspired American colonists to confront the tax-eating British in 1776.”

In the article, “The Chicago Tax Strike of 1977,” Murray N. Rothbard told one of the best-known stories about Jim, who had just founded the National Taxpayers United of Illinois a year earlier in 1976: “In recent months, a mighty property-tax strike has been sweeping the northern suburbs of Chicago…James Tobin, 31-year-old economist, bank auditor and Illinois NTUI head who was to become the principal leader of the tax rebellion, urged an outright tax strike….”

“…The reassessments suddenly boosted property taxes by very large amounts: most raises were in the 50–65 percent range; other tax bills increased by as much as 300 percent. When the property-tax bills were sent out, the citizens of the North Shore reacted with shock and anger. At first, the reaction was outraged but inchoate: phone calls bombarded the Cook County Assessors Office. Complaints also deluged the Chicago Tribune, which initiated public knowledge of the firestorm of grievance by printing some of the complaints in a front-page article.”

That’s where Jim stepped in, not just once, but over 400 times in more than 40 years. But Jim wasn’t a mere anti-tax revolutionary. He was a man concerned with all the causes of his time that challenged injustice: civil rights, unjust wars, and the individual right and responsibility of the American citizen to stand up for what is right, including in running for office. He believed people have to “be the change they wish to see.”

Jim ran for Governor of Illinois in 1998 and as Illinois Lt. Governor with Cal Skinner in 2002 on the Libertarian Party ticket. He was challenged by entrenched politicians both times. Those ill-willed challenges rallied people around the country against the injustice of seeking to keep a true citizen-candidate off the ballot. Among other things, it inspired his daughter, Christina Tobin, at 17 years of age, not only to become involved in those elections but later to found the Free and Equal Elections Foundation to help citizen candidates all over the country.

The goal of our lives should be to strive for a perfect record of victory on the battlefield of principle. We will not always be correct, and need not be. Jim Tobin believed that we need only do our best to fight for liberty and justice for all, and we must, in that way, be true to ourselves. That is the way of a free life, and the measure of a truly free man. Jim Tobin was a great American and a great champion of the little guy. He also was my father.

Sometimes a single man or woman has to stand up for principle, just so the rest of us are reminded that principles exist. Such a man was Jim Tobin.


View as PDF

Champaign–Val W. Zimnicki, Taxpayers United of America’s Director of Outreach, reports from Champaign on the city’s financial status.

“There are a lot of things that the City of Champaign has going for it,” said Zimnicki. “Unlike the rest of the state, Champaign is actually growing in population. The city has an economic powerhouse in the form of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The City also has done well with its finances, as shown by its triple A rating given to their bonds by Moody’s investment service.”

“My only question, for the city and Champaign taxpayers, is: How long will the good time continue?”

“The City of Champaign is not an island. The economic situation of the areas around it will affect the city. The state of Illinois, in which Champaign resides, has been dealing with economic mismanagement for years. Illinois’ bonds are rated by Moody’s at Baa2, meaning they are subject to moderate credit risk. They are considered medium grade and, as such, may possess certain speculative characteristics. Chicago, the economic engine for Illinois and roughly a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Champaign, is rated at Ba1. Ba1 bond ratings are judged to have speculative elements and are subject to substantial credit risk.”

“As the State of Illinois and most of its municipalities continue to struggle, they could drag the City of Champaign down with them. Higher property and state taxes and lower taxpayer investments in the University will damage Champaign in the long run.”

“Why are Illinois and many of its cities struggling? One thing only: Government employee pensions. And the pension fund for retired municipal workers is a reason why Champaign property taxes are going up.”

“The Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) sucks up Champaign property taxes, while the other government pensions are supplemented with the state income tax.”

“Every city in Illinois is struggling with government-employee pensions. Moody’s investment service reports that the City of Champaign proudly displays one of the top reasons for a downgrade: Growth in the city’s debt burden and pension burdens.”

“For example, in 2010 the City of Champaign paid $1,890,925 into IMRF (Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund), $3,364,726 into the police pension fund, and $3,202,615 into the firefighter’s pension fund. In 2020, the contribution to IMRF was $1,930,235, $6,165,648 went into the police pension fund, and $3,801,886 went into the firefighter’s pension fund.”

“While not nearly as disastrous as other less responsible cities, we are seeing a clear creep in taxpayer dollars going to pay for government-employee pensions. Additionally, the pensions that are being paid out are less than responsible.”

“For example, Steven C. Carter’s current annual IMRF pension is estimated to be $137,785 in 2020. He contributed $162,118 to his pension plan, and it is estimated he will receive $2,413,421 over a normal lifetime.”

“Robert T. Finney’s current annual IMRF pension is estimated to be $134,106 during 2020. He retired at age 51 and put only $153,814 into his pension fund. He is estimated to receive $4,540,906 from his IMRF pension over a normal lifetime.”

“Additionally, it is important to note that almost everyone with an IMRF pension is also eligible for Social Security.”

“The city of Champaign is doing well for now, but there is a sword hanging over its head. The price tag for government pensions is going up, including its property taxes, and the state around it is sinking. If the City of Champaign wishes to avoid a terrible economic crisis, it needs to be a frontrunner calling for the State of Illinois to institute pension reform before it’s too late.”


View as PDF

Aurora–Taxpayers United of America’s Director of Outreach Val W. Zimnicki, in Aurora last week, called for the city to engage seriously with pension reform.

“It is fascinating how much things can change over 10 years.” Said Zimnicki.

“In 2011, the amount that taxpayers in the City of Aurora contributed to IMRF (Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund) with their property taxes was $2,712,000. (The IMRF sucks up property taxes, while the other government pensions are supplemented with the state income tax.)

The amount contributed to the police pension fund was $10,155,400, and the firefighter pension fund was $8,339,700. Let’s look at how these numbers compare to 2021.”

“In 2021, City of Aurora taxpayers’ property taxes subsidized IMRF with $4,005,000. The amount contributed to the police pension fund was $19,039,600, and to the firefighter pension fund, $15,291,100.”

“In the span of 10 years, Aurora taxpayers are spending millions more on the lavish, gold-plated pensions of retired government employees. IMRF pension payments have gone up 47.67%, police pension payments have gone up 87.48%, and firefighter pension payments have gone up 83.35%. These payments are made yearly, and are expected to go even higher next year.”

“Aurora Taxpayers cannot afford this burden. In a study done by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, it was revealed that the tax rate of a median-valued home in the United States was 1.49 percent in 2017. Only a handful of cities have effective tax rates that are roughly 2.5 times higher than the average, which includes Aurora. The City of Aurora was shown to have an effective property tax rate of 3.76%!”

“The fact that so many taxpayer dollars are pulled from Aurora taxpayer’s pockets and funneled into the black hole that is the Illinois pension system is abominable. Taxpayers are always told that taxes are used to fund ‘basic necessities.’ Instead, they are used to fund the lavish retirements of government employees who retire in their 50s and early 60s.”

“Take for example William A. Wiet. Wiet was estimated in 2020 to receive $137,049 annually from his IMRF pension. He paid $158,009 into his own pension, and is estimated to receive $3,365,886 over the course of his lifetime.”

“Another example is Steven E. Booth. Booth was estimated in 2020 to receive $130,451 annually from his IMRF pension. He paid $100,020 into his own pension, and is estimated to receive $3,891,301 over the course of his lifetime. Booth retired at the age of 55.”

“Instead of benefiting a handful of elite government pensioners to sit around unproductively, the State of Illinois and Gov. Jay Robert ‘J. B.’ Pritzker should implement pension reform to reduce taxpayer burdens. Meaningful tax cuts can bring growth back to Illinois, and reverse the outflow of Illinois residents.”

“To that end, the City of Aurora should stop being a benefactor of government pensions and, instead, be a responsible steward of taxpayer’s money. It is time for those responsible for the City of Aurora’s finances to take a stand, and demand pension reform.”