Pritzker pitches $1B in temporary tax cuts after $5.4B in permanent tax hikes

Pritzker pitches $1B in temporary tax cuts after $5.4B in permanent tax hikes

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to unveil $1 billion in temporary tax cuts on groceries, property taxes and gas bills in his new budget. It all goes away just months after he seeks reelection Nov. 8, changing little.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker will unveil his fiscal year 2023 Illinois budget Feb. 2, including $1 billion in tax cuts for Illinoisans ahead of Nov. 8 elections to boost the state economy, a top aide said.

But not long after the votes are counted, Pritzker’s tax cuts go away.

The administration said the 1% cut to Illinois’ sales tax on food, delaying of automatic gas tax increases and property tax rebates worth up to $300 will be doled out to counter the rising cost of necessities because of inflation. The tax breaks expire in July 2023.

After a year of better-than-expected state revenues bolstered by billions in federal pandemic stimulus, Pritzker claims the tax cuts are resulting from his responsible government spending during COVID-19.

But as the governor waylays permanent tax cuts in favor of temporary policies designed to expire before surplus pandemic funds run dry, state residents are right to question how long Illinois’ improved fiscal standing will last after federal assistance is used up.

The other question is whether Pritzker’s temporary tax cuts would be followed by four more years of unbalanced budgets, growing state debt and nation-leading taxes for Illinoisans. Pritzker’s term has aggravated all those state fiscal woes.

Pritzker’s temporary cuts include blocking an annual automatic increase in the state gas tax, which he doubled in 2019 to 38 cents from 19 cents per gallon. It has been automatically boosted a fraction of a penny each year since then – currently it’s at 39.2 cents – a mechanism state lawmakers inserted to avoid voting on unpopular gas tax hikes.

The delay would save drivers $135 million before resuming its march upward after a year.

Illinois motorists paid the nation’s 10th highest gas tax before Pritzker took office in 2019. Now Illinois is No. 2 because Pritzker within his first few months doubled the gas tax to pay for a $45 billion infrastructure plan.

The average Illinois driver pays $105 more a year in gas taxes as a result.

Besides the $1 billion in temporary tax cuts, re-election mode Pritzker is touting a budget expected to be balanced for the first time since 2001. Illinois has not fixed any of the money problems that made it the nation’s fiscal joke, but Pritzker’s rosy outlook is from billion in federal stimulus coupled with consumers generating taxes thanks to spending their pandemic relief funds.

Feel-good campaign rhetoric shouldn’t hide the fact that one year of calm cannot make up for decades of deficits or stop a rapid return to the government irresponsibility that gave Illinois the nation’s leading state and local tax burden.

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