October 30, 2018

Experts available to provide reaction, commentary to state and local elections

CHICAGO (Oct. 30, 2018) – Taxes, debt and the future of the state are among the pressing issues on residents’ minds as they hit the polls next week. Researchers from Illinois Policy are available to provide expertise on these state-focused issues and how they affect Illinoisans.

Key statewide issues include:

Enacting a progressive tax

  • Many Illinois Democratic candidates have campaigned on enacting a progressive state income tax. None, however, have provided specific tax rates. Illinoisans would not have the opportunity to vote on this issue state until 2020, though lawmakers could vote to put it on the ballot as early as January.
  • Solution: A progressive tax is a Trojan horse for tax hikes on the middle class and cannot fulfill the numerous policies lawmakers promise. Alternatively, Illinois Policy proposed a constitutional spending cap with bipartisan support that would rein in state spending to what taxpayers can afford.

Illinois’ mountain of debt

  • Illinois’ pension debt is estimated to sit between $130 billion and $250 billion. Statewide, residential property taxes have grown 80 percent faster over the last 20 years, primarily to keep up with growing pension costs. Communities such as Harvey and Peoria have laid off workers in order to make pension payments. Meanwhile, Illinois’ backlog of unpaid bills currently sits at $7.1 billion.
  • Solution: Illinois Policy believes in passing a constitutional amendment that would protect already-earned pension benefits while allowing for changes to future, not-yet-earned benefits. Further, the state should enroll all new government workers into 401(k)-style retirement plans.

AFSCME’s contract

  • The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, the largest government worker union in the state, has been without a contract since July 2015. AFSCME’s exorbitant demands and stall tactics throughout negotiations have cost Illinoisans billions. Whoever becomes governor will be tasked with negotiating and finalizing an agreement with the union.
  • Solution: In light of the state’s poor fiscal health, AFSCME should accept a fair contract from the state that does not push costs above what taxpayers can afford.

Madigan as House speaker

  • Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan is the longest-serving House speaker in modern U.S. history, and the most powerful legislative leader in the nation. With control over House rules, Madigan has outsized influence over which bills can be heard for a vote. More than two-thirds of registered voters in Illinois disapprove of the speaker, according to a poll by Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.
  • Solution: In January, state lawmakers will cast their vote for House speaker, and determine whether Madigan will continue his reign as the longest-serving speaker in the country.

Experts are available in person to provide reaction commentary on election night panels or to weigh in on the policies affecting Illinoisans prior to the results.