Will Pritzker’s 2nd term bring more tax hikes, emergency orders?

Will Pritzker’s 2nd term bring more tax hikes, emergency orders?

Illinois has reached the four-year mark with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration. What do the past four years tell Illinoisans about what to expect in his second term?

Property taxes

While Pritzker reduced residents’ future property tax payments after consolidating 650 state police and firefighter pension funds in 2019 and sent out one-time rebate checks averaging $200, Illinoisans’ overall property taxes have still gone up $2,228 since he took office.

Illinois homeowners now spend the second most on property taxes in the U.S. and double the national average. Pritzker’s initial campaign promise of property tax reform seems to have been lost.

Gas taxes

Gas taxes are up over 23 cents per gallon since Pritzker doubled the state gas tax from 19 cents in 2019.

He also added automatic annual hikes for inflation that drove the rate to 39.2 cents but delayed the 2022 increase until after the election – leading to a hike of 42.4 cents Jan. 1 with a second hike coming July 1 expected to take the rate to 44.3 cents.

Ending the automatic annual gas tax hike would be a taxpayer-friendly move, especially for low-income Illinoisans as the nation faces a recession.

Unemployment Insurance Fund

Pritzker and state lawmakers missed opportunities to refill the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and repay a federal loan using federal COVID-19 funds, incurring and estimated $50 million or more in interest. But then he signed a bipartisan agreement from lawmakers to refill the fund and pay off the last of the federal debt.

The law saves taxpayers from an extra $20 million in interest that would have been due next September.

Illinois budget  

Pritzker has repeatedly claimed to have balanced the state budget each year since taking office, including a $46.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2023 – the largest ever passed in Illinois’ history.

But there was also $14 billion in new federal relief funds to the state, counties and municipal governments during the pandemic that were used to boost spending.

Illinois was also the only state to rely on emergency borrowing from the Federal Reserve to shore up its budget during the pandemic, bringing in an additional $3.2 billion.

Pritzker did use these fungible relief dollars to refill the state’s rainy-day fund to over $1 billion and pay off $1.098 billion in pre-paid tuition and state employee health insurance debt

Pritzker secured six credit upgrades for Illinois since 2021 – the first upgrades on state bond ratings in more than two decades. Even so, the state still boasts the worst credit rating in the nation and state leaders show little fiscal restraint.

Executive orders

Just ahead of his inauguration for his second term, Pritzker issued his 38th COVID-19 disaster proclamation, extending his emergency powers through Feb 5.

When the newest proclamation ends, Pritzker will have held emergency powers for 1,060 of 1,483 days in office, or over 70% of his tenure.

None of Illinois’ neighbor states are ruled through emergency powers. As of Jan. 10, Illinois was one of just 10 states nationwide still calling the COVID-19 pandemic an emergency after Colorado let its order expire.

Four years down. Four to go. Let’s hope for the welfare of Illinois’ taxes, population and business community that Pritzker’s past isn’t the state’s future.

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