Despite higher taxes, union strikes and apocalyptic predictions, we’ve survived 2012 – though our bank accounts are worse for the wear. Unfortunately, this year was not Illinois’ finest hour for freedom and prosperity. Moving forward, however, we have every reason to maintain hope – and work hard for – a brighter 2013. Here’s what the Illinois Policy Institute thinks would get us on the right path for success in 2013 and beyond.
Lasting pension reform. Illinoisans are tired of their politicians kicking the can down the road when it comes to pension reform. The price tag of the state’s debt just keeps growing, and Springfield isn’t doing anything to fix the problem. Illinois needs a plan that will work for taxpayers and government workers – such reform must center on a defined-contribution plan.
2011 tax hike repeal. Even after the record-breaking 2011 income tax hike sucked an extra $1,500 per year out of every Illinois family’s budget – or $6 billion per year total – the state’s financial situation is still in shambles. Lawmakers have proven that more money isn’t the answer. We want our leaders to rein in and reform spending instead of creating more government dependency and leaning on taxpayers to perpetuate Illinois’ financial crisis. Making the income tax hike permanent would push more Illinois residents and businesses out of the state.
Job growth. Illinois has the 8th-highest unemployment rate in the nation; 575,000 Illinoisans are still unemployed. Even worse, if you count not only the unemployed but also the underemployed, this total reaches more than 1.1 million Illinoisans. State legislators need to get serious about spending reform and make the state’s business climate more fertile for job creators, otherwise unemployment will remain stagnant.
Freedom from ObamaCare. Illinois’ Medicaid system is already broke; expanding Medicaid and opting to have a state-funded exchange – two key parts of the ObamaCare legislation lawmakers should oppose soon– will further bankrupt the state and squeeze out care for those most in need. Illinoisans deserve health care reform that focuses on taking care of the neediest among us and doesn’t continue to bury taxpayers with mounds of debt.
Principled leadership. Illinois needs fewer politicians to fall in line and more leaders who are willing to stick to liberty principles and restore Illinois to prosperity. At the end of the day, Illinois’ No. 1 problem is that leaders in both parties fear the political consequences of actually solving the root cause of our fiscal meltdown. It’s time to stop going along to get along and pursue the big, brave reforms Illinois needs.
More school choice for Illinois’ children. This New Year, we wish that every child in Illinois could have the freedom to enroll in the school of his or her choice. More choice means greater opportunities, and allows children in impoverished neighborhoods to escape failing schools in hopes of a brighter future.
A more open collective bargaining process. Employee wages and benefits make up a big part of the price of government, which continues to cost more and more in Illinois. Taxpayers are on the hook for this money, but they’re not allowed at the bargaining table when unions and government representatives negotiate. Negotiations need to happen in the open – instead of behind closed doors.
A tough ban on public sector strikes. During the Chicago Teachers Union strike, hundreds of thousands of students were locked out of the classroom and working parents were left scrambling to make sure their children were taken care of. Once the dust settled, the union came away with unaffordable raises that will leave Chicago Public Schools with an insurmountable $1 billion budget deficit next year. It’s time to prevent unions from serving as monopoly providers of essential services. Passing Right-to-Work legislation wouldn’t hurt, either.
Local government transparency. Wouldn’t it be great if taxpayers always knew what their local government officials were doing with their money? Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen everywhere in Illinois, with too many decisions made behind closed doors. Ideally, officials would be more open of their own accord. But if that’s not possible, the next best thing would be to enact a local government transparency act to give taxpayers the information they deserve.
Help us make these wishes a reality.