“I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”
– Winston Churchill
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, after signing the largest budget in Illinois history, declared that the Land of Lincoln is back, but he failed to complete the rest of that sentence. Illinois is back to the failed policies of more tax increases and out-of-control spending. Republican “leaders” who supported Pritzker’s big government fiscal policies should be ashamed of themselves. I voted “no” on the Pritzker budget and tax increases.
The $40 billion fiscal 2020 unbalanced budget that the governor signed contains more spending than the budget he originally proposed and includes no spending reforms. The budget also includes tax increases on health insurance and online purchases. The Illinois Constitution requires “appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year.”
The General Assembly did not pass a revenue estimate, so this budget cannot truly be balanced. Also, overly optimistic revenue forecasts unrealistically assume that one-time revenue gains will be sustainable.
As egregious as the additional spending is, the real story of the 2019 spring session is taxes, taxes and more taxes. The progressive income tax constitutional amendment is the linchpin for massive future tax increases and new state spending.
Fortunately, voters will have the final say on the progressive income tax constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot in the general election next year. I’m confident that 60% of Illinois voters will not support massive tax increases that eventually will hit the middle class. Do you really trust Illinois political insiders to set your tax rates under a progressive tax system?
An additional slap in the face to taxpayers is a $1,600 legislator pay raise included in the budget. Rather than cutting taxes for hardworking Illinois residents and small businesses, establishment politicians passed their own pay raise. I consistently have sponsored measures to stop legislator pay increases, and I have informed the comptroller’s office that I will not accept the increase.
The Legislature also approved a
$45 billion infrastructure plan. Insiders from both parties negotiated a deal to double the state’s gas tax from 19 cents a gallon to 38 cents a gallon, and additional revenue will come from a $50 increase to the annual license plate fee. A typical two-car household now will pay an extra $100 a year to register their vehicles in Illinois. Parking taxes also are going up.
The tax increases approved this spring come on the heels of a massive 32% income tax increase passed in 2017. Combined income, property and sales taxes make Illinois one of highest taxed states in the country. The actions taken during the spring legislative session only will serve to add to the state’s already high tax burden and lead to even more people leaving our state. Last year, more than 45,000 net people left Illinois. We cannot afford to hemorrhage taxpayers at this rate.
We already have seen what high taxes have done to our state, and it is not a pretty picture. If raising taxes were the solution to the state’s fiscal problems, Illinois would not be the state with the worst credit rating, nor would the state’s pension systems be among the most underfunded in the country.
Illinois will not get on track financially by raising taxes. It did not work in the past, and it won’t work moving forward. Not only is raising taxes bad public policy, it also is an insult to the taxpayers of Illinois who are paying a terrible price for the mismanagement of their money. We need to cut spending in Illinois at the state and local levels. We also need to provide significant property tax relief.
Once again this session, the General Assembly neglected to act on pension reform, Medicaid reform and property tax relief, only pushing through massive tax increases and a pay raise for themselves. Despite the disappointing legislative session, there is hope for Illinois.
The Land of Lincoln has not yet become another California or New York. We can turn things around. The real comeback tour for Illinois starts in the 2020 election, when I am confident voters will reject the progressive income tax increase and send a message to politicians that they also are a “no” to more massive tax increases.
• State Rep. David McSweeney is a Republican from Barrington Hills.