Broken promises set scene one year ahead of progressive income tax vote

November 4, 2019

Illinois Policy experts available to discuss Illinois' history of failed budget and spending solutions

CHICAGO (Nov. 4, 2019) – The one-year countdown begins for whether Illinois voters decide to adopt or reject a progressive income tax on Nov. 3, 2020. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has made several promises regarding the benefits of this tax plan, including middle class tax relief, balanced budgets and no economic damage.

But a new Illinois Policy analysis, “5 broken promises show why Illinois voters distrust Pritzker’s ‘fair tax,’” cites examples of why these claims fall short, along with other failed attempts to fix Illinois’ financial problems with tax hikes.

Experts from Illinois Policy are available in Chicago, Springfield and across to the state to discuss Illinois’ history of broken tax and spending promises.

Broken political promises include:

  • A toll-free Illinois

The creation of an Illinois Tollway was heralded as a smart solution to paying off bond debt for 187 miles of highway construction, and drivers were promised the tolls would only last until that bond debt was paid off. But even though revenues exceeded expectations and the original bonds were eventually paid off, the tollway authority was made permanent in 1968.

Today, drivers in Illinois pay a growing cost for tolls. From 2009 to 2019, the Tollway’s budget more than doubled and revenues collected from tolls and missed tolls grew 90%. This is a far cry from the original slogan for the tollway proposal: “Toll free in ’73.”

  • Illinois Lottery will fund education

Despite lawmakers claiming most lottery revenues technically “fund education,” the Illinois Lottery capped the total amount of lottery money that goes to schools in 2009. All additional lottery proceeds fund capital projects.

Worse, lottery money never really makes it to the classroom. Those revenues are eaten up by annual contributions to the teachers’ pension system – about $5 billion per year as compared to the $745 million coming from the lottery.

  • “Temporary” income taxes

In both 1989 and 2011, the Illinois General Assembly hiked income taxes under the guise of being “temporary.” New revenue from the 1989 hike was supposed to improve state funding for education and cause local governments to lower property taxes, but lawmakers broke both promises when the tax became permanent in 1993 and Illinois finances worsened.

Lawmakers levied another “temporary” income tax hike in 2011, which ultimately became permanent in 2017. Meanwhile, as the income tax rate went up, the state’s net position deficit – which measures its debt against its assets – quadrupled.

Statement from Adam Schuster, director of budget and tax research:
“Illinoisans are hearing the same old promises repeated back to them, even though they’ve been broken before. Any notion of a progressive income tax being a ‘fair’ solution that will tax the rich and fix the state is rooted in falsehoods.

“A quick look at states such as California or Connecticut shows what will happen if the amendment passes in Illinois: slower growth in jobs, wages and economic output; rising property taxes; and financial mismanagement that will leave middle class taxpayers facing tax hikes to make up for politicians’ poor choices.”

To read the full analysis, visit illin.is/brokenpromises.

For bookings or interviews, contact media@illinoispolicy.org or (312) 607-4977.