Twenty-seven Rotarians were in attendance at this week’s meeting along with two guests.  Rhonda Miller brought her friend, Creed Tucker, a Winnetka attorney, and our speaker Robyn Gabel brought her chief-of-staff, Karen McCormick from Northfield.
Patti Van Cleave, the chair of our Charitable Foundation, reminded the club that our annual grants would be presented to ten agencies on April 14th.  Any member who would like to add to the amount given to any of these agencies can give a check to Rich Lalley by April 7th.  The club will match an individual’s gift at a rate of 50₵ on the dollar up to $250.  Patti put a list of the ten agencies on the tables. 
Robert Mardirossian made a paid announcement inviting members to attend the annual benefit of the Counseling Center of the North Shore (formerly Family Service) on April 15th.  Tickets to the event at the Michigan Shores Club cost $150 per person. 
David Grant also put in a plug for the Winnetka Community House’s annual benefit to be held on April 9th.  Tickets for this affair cost $75, which will feature The Second City Improv All-Stars.
Rich Lalley announced the date, July 23rd, for our Rotary District’s annual Cubs-Brewers baseball game and tailgate party.  The tailgate party will begin at 3:10 p.m. and the game has a 6:10 p.m start.  Tickets for this event will be $55 during the month of April; then go up to $65 in May.  There may be a charter bus available for an additional amount, more on that later.    Rich also announced that a special award was being presented posthumously to David Gotaas for his work in Kosovo.  Dave started the first Rotary Club in Kosovo and was instrumental in the Kosovo American Education Fund, which provides graduate fellowships to promising young Kowovars for top-level training at select U.S. universities.
Happy Buck$ were provided this week by Patti Van Cleave, Robert Mardirossian, Rodger Morris and Barb Tubekis.  Bernie Michna provided laughter with his Dig ‘n Grin. 
The speaker for the day was Robyn Gabel, the State Representative from the 18th District, which includes Winnetka and Northfield.  She is in her 6th year in office.  Previously she was the Executive Director of the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition from 1998 to 2010.  She said that about 1/3 of the state’s revenue comes from Individual Income tax and another 1/3 comes from the state sales tax.  Approximately 8-10 % comes from corporate taxes and the rest from an assortment of fees and fines.  On the expenditure side of the ledger about 50% is fixed – going to state pensions, debt service and health insurance.  The other half is spent on health care and human services, education and public safety.  In 2011 Illinois temporarily (for three years) raised the individual income tax rate from 3% to 5% and the corporate tax rate from 4.8% to 7%.  The legislature did not renew the increase in 2014.  Thus, in the past two years the state’s fiscal problems have increase exponentially.  Governor Rauner has not wanted to reinstitute the increase until his turnaround agenda was passed, which included what unions could negotiate, changes in health care, changes in the legislative maps and the institution of term limits.
Ms. Gabel said that both liberal and conservative think tanks have similar solutions to the state’s financial problems.  She said the state needs to return to a 5% tax rate on incomes, expand the tax base by taxing services, as is the case in most states and tax retirement income above $50,000.  She said that Illinois is one of a few states that uses a flat tax rate for revenue, most have a graduated state income tax.  Gabel thinks that a bipartisan group working on the state’s finances is making progress toward a solution.
Much of the budget expenditures are required by law.  It is getting very difficult for many of the state colleges, many of which are facing major reductions and possible shutdowns.  Climate change is facing all of us and Ms. Gabel has indicated that wind and solar have become far less expensive in recent years.  Wind and solar have worked best in Germany where they are selling excess electricity supply to other nearby countries.  She has hope for our state, but she admits it will be a tough slog.