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Column: State tax on fast track, Kaskaskia hotel isn’t

Craig Sterrett
Craig Sterrett

Well, that happened quickly.

What did?

A lot of things here in Illinois.

While some things seem to take forever in La Salle, such as remodeling progress — or even getting a crew to touch up paint on the old Kaskaskia hotel — other projects launch and finish in a matter of weeks.

For instance, if you have not been to downtown La Salle lately, the transformation of the old Last Muffler and Brake Shop into a banquet and activity center seemed to happen in mere weeks. The buyers took an interior that customers would remember as full of shelves filled with parts, and floors with mufflers and pipes and tires on display or just arrived on order.

The new owners took that shop office, gave it a clean, new look, polished the floors and left some of the interior brick exposed, making for a striking appearance.

Also, it didn’t take long for buyer Leah Inman to have contractors mostly rebuild and rescue a building that was damaged by fire, about a half block west of Lock 16 Visitors Center.

Nearby, however, little progress can be seen so far where the city council was told a brew pub was coming in to the northeast of the intersection of First and Joliet streets.

As for the Kaskaskia Hotel, it aggravates me to see paint peeling and its Second Street storefronts empty and those storefront windows looking neglected, when the rest of downtown La Salle is getting a refreshed appearance.

I know investors are needed for the full hotel project to get going, but while the wait continues, the place needs some exterior upkeep again.

I believe there are some downtown La Salle investors and entrepreneurs who were motivated in part by how their business might fit in or attract outside visitors once the hotel is reworked and reopened. Many of those businesses are thriving, and some of the recent downtown La Salle boom is taking place regardless of when the hotel renovation is completed.

Still, the downtown district has never been more primed to serve and to profit from visitors or tourists.

What else is happening fast? When voters elected JB Pritzker, they voted for change, and they are getting those changes, like it or not. Whether voters realized it or not, Hyatt hotels heir Pritzker comes from a completely opposite political dimension from the hotel mogul in charge of the nation.

With Pritzker in charge and with a massive majority of Democrats in the state capital, you’re seeing, effective immediately, a liberal social agenda. And, effective July 1 — Illinoisans will see more spending on infrastructure, but also tax increases in the form of a 38-cent gas tax hike and incidental taxation through huge fines for traffic tickets.

Pritzker also will ask voters to approve a new income tax structure, impacting wealthy Illinoisans. But that fuel tax and traffic-ticket price will be a lot less affordable for the poor and middle class than the wealthy. The fuel tax will help pay for road repairs, which is good. But a longtime Bureau County Democratic Party leader, the late Al Quartucci of Spring Valley, always told me decreasing the fuel tax helped Illinois because people would buy more fuel in Illinois.

I don’t know if the fuel tax will help or hurt Illinois, on balance, but you can bank on this: It will provide more revenue to Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Indiana, because truck drivers and motorists will fill up there instead of here.

To change the income tax structure, voters would need to approve a constitutional amendment.

It’s amazing how fast Springfield can ask for a constitutional amendment for tax, but the legislators say it’s impossible to solve the pension problem that’s hurting the state economy because it would require a constitutional change.

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