Illinois taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to bail out politicians’ failures

Illinois taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to bail out politicians’ failures

The Illinois Senate’s budget “compromise” hits Illinoisans with more than $5 billion in tax hikes, continued budget deficits and no real reforms.

Illinois’ budget gridlock has made things uncomfortable for the state’s political class. Not because there’s no official budget in place – politicians are still spending at record levels despite the impasse.

Rather, the budget stalemate has put the state’s dysfunction, built up over the past 15 to 20 years, on full display for a public that’s increasingly fed up and leaving the state. Skyrocketing pension costs are squeezing out social services programs. The nation’s highest property taxes are forcing seniors and low-income residents out of their homes. And the state is bleeding jobs, especially working-class manufacturing jobs.

But rather than listen to Illinoisans demanding an end to decades of failed policies, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, have teamed up to bring back “compromise” to Illinois politics.

Their multibillion-dollar tax-hike plan, however, does little more than force taxpayers to bail out politicians’ failures.

The Senate plan punishes taxpayers with more than $5 billion in additional taxes, $7 billion in borrowing, and a $215 million bailout of Chicago Public Schools. The plan includes virtually nothing in structural spending reforms. And once politicians get all that new tax money, any pressure to enact real reforms will be gone – just look at what happened in the wake of the 2011 tax hike.

According to an analysis by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, or GOMB, the Senate plan will inflict significant pain on taxpayers without even balancing the budget.

GOMB’s analysis shows the Senate plan will still result in a $4.3 billion deficit for fiscal year 2017 and a $2.3 billion budget deficit in fiscal year 2018 despite the massive tax hikes included in the proposal.

The truth is lawmakers won’t be finished hitting Illinoisans with tax hikes, no matter what they may claim.

Kicking the can

The Senate plan is Illinois politicians’ way to restore what they’re comfortable with: kicking the can down the road, avoiding necessary reforms, and sticking taxpayers with the bill for politicians’ mistakes through billions of dollars in tax hikes.

Why else would Cullerton say that “the state’s been shaken up enough”? Radogno seems to agree with him. They both want to avoid the political pain they’ll face from special interest groups that oppose reform. It’s far easier for them to maintain the status quo of the last 15 to 20 years.

But ordinary Illinoisans won’t put up with a “compromise” that protects politicians’ careers over taxpayers’ livelihoods. If real reforms aren’t enacted, Illinoisans will continue to protect themselves and their futures in the only way they can – by leaving.

A net 1.2 million people have fled Illinois over the past decade and a half – the worst out-migration record in the Midwest and one of the worst records of any state in the country. In 2016, Illinois lost a net of 114,000 people to other states, a record high for the Land of Lincoln.

And the exodus from Illinois will only get worse if the Senate plan is enacted. A recent poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute found 47 percent of Illinoisans polled said they want to leave the state. Their No. 1 reason? Taxes.

Illinoisans don’t deserve the Senate’s terrible budget deal. They deserve structural spending, pension and economic reforms that finally bring an end to Illinois’ perpetual crises. If politicians would implement real reforms, such as 401(k)-style retirement plans, comprehensive property tax reform, a revamped workers’ compensation system, and changes in collective bargaining and Medicaid, they wouldn’t be burdening their constituents with multibillion-dollar tax hikes.

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