Pritzker says he will not engage in horse-trading to win support for tax hikes

Pritzker says he will not engage in horse-trading to win support for tax hikes

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker will not selectively hand out infrastructure projects as a way to buy support for proposals to increase taxes and fees, should he stick to his word.

Illinois Gov. J.B Pritzker claimed he will not engage in horse-trading over infrastructure spending as a means to buy support for tax and fee hikes he’s proposed, according to the State Journal-Register. Taken together, the governor’s 19 tax and fee proposals would take $6.9 billion out of Illinoisans’ pockets. That includes doubling Illinois’ gas tax, hiking vehicle registration fees and passing a $3.4 billion progressive income tax hike.

Some media outlets have reported that the Pritzker administration was planning to use spending on roads, bridges and other infrastructure to selectively reward or punish lawmakers for supporting or opposing his agenda.

Critics of Pritzker’s push to scrap Illinois’ constitutionally protected flat tax and implement a graduated or “progressive” income tax have been sounding alarm bells in response. The progressive income tax hike is a Trojan Horse for middle class tax hikes of up to $3,500. If Pritzker can engage in horse-trading to buy support from skeptical lawmakers in his own party, Illinoisans will face both significant tax increases and the prospect of seeing the transportation dollars they send to Springfield wasted on politically motivated giveaways.

According to the Chicago Tribune, state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, recently acknowledged the prospect of horse-trading explicitly, saying, “A capital bill is helpful for people being able to take votes so they can show that these (other) votes were worth it for their district.” Hoffman is an assistant House leader under House Speaker Michael Madigan and a former House Transportation Committee chairman.

Unfortunately, pork projects and wasteful infrastructure spending would be nothing new for Illinois.

The Illinois Policy Institute identified $27 million of pork-barrel spending projects in the fiscal year 2019 state spending plan, including $10 million for the privately owned Uptown Theatre in Chicago. The last major new capital plan, Illinois Jobs Now!, included wasteful projects such as $670,000 for copper-plated doors and $500,000 for chandeliers and sculptures for the Illinois Capitol building in Springfield.

Pritzker told the State Journal-Register that he wants to put money into “roads and highways and that are falling apart” and “advance the economic interests of the state.” To do so, he should abandon his $41.5 billion Rebuild Illinois plan and instead support thoughtful infrastructure spending with no tax hikes and a “fix it first” mentality. Repairing existing roads and bridges, rather than focusing on expansive new projects, is one way to guard against unnecessary and wasteful pork spending because maintenance spending naturally flows to infrastructure already in heavy use by the public.

The Illinois Policy Institute’s no tax hike capital plan offers an actionable alternative. One of the most important first steps to infrastructure spending that delivers value to taxpayers is data-driven project selection, using objective cost benefit analysis. Virginia state law requires cost effective project selection through its Smart Scale, which ranks the value of projects according to metrics such as safety and traffic mitigation.

Pritzker is right to swear off pork spending and horse trading. Now, he should go beyond words and take concrete action to give taxpayers confidence their hard-earned money won’t be used as a bargaining chip for taking more of it.

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