Updated: Dec 31, 2020
billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”
The now-prophetic quote most often attributed to former U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen, the Illinois Republican, almost seems trivial in the world of trillion-dollar deficits on the national level.
One has to wonder — do politicians today even know what they mean when it comes to talking about the spending of taxpayer dollars? The evidence suggests they don’t have a clue.
Take Illinois, for example. Our previous governor, Bruce Rauner, himself about a half-billionaire, barreled into office with a grand plan promising to fix our budget problems, and all we ended up getting was deeper into debt and higher taxes. We didn’t even get the lousy T-shirt.
This week, our new billionaire governor, J.B. Pritzker, delivered his first budget address, which outlined a still massive budget deficit yet promised more spending increases. More money for kids! Who’s going to say no to that?
The governor outlined a $3.2 billion deficit and more than $15 billion in debt from unpaid bills — that is on top of an underfunded pension obligation to the tune of $133 billion. Yet he proposed hundreds of millions in new spending, while calling it a very austere budget and proclaiming his preference to spend even more.
Recently the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago outlined its proposals to fix Illinois’ budget woes. The group proposed $6 billion in tax increases and a mere $2 billion in unidentified spending cuts. Did I mention that a third of the tax increase would come from raising taxes on retirement income? Tell that to your average retiree on a fixed income.
Who is looking out for the jobs of everyday folks — those who too often have to bear the brunt of these decisions? The billions that politicians so quickly and easily reference have to come from somewhere.
To be clear, Illinois has the second highest property taxes in the nation. Politicians in Springfield have raised income taxes by historic amounts, yet we are still billions in the hole.
The Pritzker administration would say that’s where its “progressive income tax” comes in. The state raises taxes on people at a certain income level, and they pay for all the new spending ideas. Ask some of the small business owners and job creators you know how they feel about that.
Let’s call it the “jobs tax” — because it will accelerate the push of already-struggling job creators out of Illinois.
In addition, the governor has floated this idea without telling voters the rates at which they would be taxed.
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Raise your hand if you think it’s a good idea to give Springfield politicians, through a state constitutional amendment, an unfettered ability to raise taxes year after year.
Keep in mind — because this jobs tax requires a constitutional amendment — the Pritzker administration even floated the idea of another “temporary” income tax hike to pay for all the increased spending until the amendment could potentially be placed on the ballot in 2020.
Two months into his administration and that’s the best they have? Increased spending and more taxes? A kinder, gentler public approach than we’ve had in the recent past doesn’t excuse the disappointment that yet another governor wants to embrace job creation by attacking those who actually create jobs.
It is a one-sided argument coming from Springfield politicians. And it is as if no one has any new ideas that will help solve the state’s problems — other than asking already-beleaguered job creators to pony up more of their hard-earned money.
The state simply cannot continue on its current trajectory — we are losing substantial numbers of people because of the poor jobs climate and high taxes. The coming months are critical for taxpayers, and both political parties must be held to account.
Gov. Pritzker may have won by a hefty margin, but voters did not hand him a proverbial blank check to draw on their hard-earned money.
Greg Baise is chairman of Ideas Illinois, a pro-job-creation political committee.