We have said repeatedly that it is inexcusable for the state of Illinois to operate without a budget. Therefore, we belatedly congratulate the state Legislature for putting a full-year state budget in place – finally – after two years.
The budget is important in a number of ways – maybe most important for what it says to outsiders evaluating our state, whether as a place to do business or during the process of evaluating our creditworthiness. So for that small victory, we are thankful.
As we’ve reported, the state budget, which raised personal income and corporate tax rates by 32 percent and 33 percent, respectively, to help cover the state’s bills, failed to include any real reform to address significant fundamental problems, such as underfunded pensions.
The tax increases are a stopgap at best. The Legislature, as politicians often do, simply kicked the can a little further down the road. We’ll pay a few more bills now, but the underlying problems are not going away.
With Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto last week, the state’s education funding bill, forged by majority Democrats in the House and Senate, has become the next political bone of contention, with state funding for K-12 schools hanging in the balance.
The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. So what we expect is a group of politicians in Springfield unable to see beyond the “political noses” on their faces.
We’d like to have faith they will be well-intentioned and honorable servants of the public interest who will work tirelessly on behalf of the people of Illinois. What we expect is that they will try to keep pushing real solutions aside until we reach another critical decision point created by the next financial crisis.
And for this Legislature, that will mean additional tax increases with no meaningful spending reform. This group of politicians will look to guidance and political cover from other dysfunctional states across the country, and try to bring additional bad ideas to Illinois. We can only imagine how some Illinois legislators are salivating over the prospect of taking the state income tax to California-type levels, where the top marginal rate is 13.3 percent.
Our state is failing financially. The everyday people who get up each day and do the right things to make a life for themselves and their families are paying a steep price, and suffering as a result. The price they are paying has no end in sight for them or generations to come.
This will not end until we’re able to get leadership willing to honestly put the interests of all the people of Illinois before the political interests that have won out over the people’s interests for decades.
In particular, it’s time for Michael Madigan, speaker of the Illinois House for 32 of the past 34 years, to go. Madigan holds what is arguably the most powerful “statewide” office in Illinois. However, all he has to do to hold power is win his own “safe” district and keep control of his cronies in the House.
Although a Madigan-free House would be a start, there needs to be a clean sweep of those in charge in both the Illinois House and Senate who are using their power to gain or keep power, instead of finding real solutions to our problems.
This budget is a start, but it does little to fix any of our real problems. People will continue to leave the state, business will continue to set up shop elsewhere, and the burdens placed on Illinois taxpayers will get more and more unbearable until the whole “House of Cards” comes falling down with catastrophic consequences.
Let your state senator and state representatives know what you think. It’s a daunting task, but we must take back control of our state government from the ineffective and corrupt, and put people in charge who believe in unlocking the real power of Illinois and its people.
Illinois should be a state others look to as a vibrant symbol of what a great state looks like.
Right now, we look more like a cautionary tale.
We can do better. We must do better.