By Ted Dabrowski -
Fifty percent of all Illinoisans would leave the state if they could.
These numbers came from three recent Gallup polls. In all three surveys, no state polled worse than Illinois.
You’d think with results like that, the last thing politicians would do is reach into disgruntled voters’ wallets to take more of their money.
But that’s precisely what Illinois Democrats are trying to do. In calling for a variety tax increases to help plug Illinois’ growing pension hole, politicians are seemingly oblivious to the daily struggles of ordinary Illinoisans who are living in the state with the nation’s third-highest unemployment rate and the ninth-highest total tax burden.
This spring, Illinois’ Democratic leadership attempted to pass a number of tax hikes. One bill focused on penalizing millionaires. Several others were versions of a progressive tax hike – changes that would have required a constitutional amendment to Illinois’ flat income tax regime. But thanks to a united Republican front and the defection of a lone Democrat, those proposals were defeated.
Now the same Democrats are trying to increase individual income taxes in 2015 by 33 percent.
Illinois politicians are anxious to join the chorus of states that are acting to fix their government pensions – except none of its leaders have the backbone to enact real pension reform on their allies, the public-sector unions.
Instead, they find it much easier to keep raising taxes, call it pension reform and then raise taxes again.
Democrats already raised taxes in 2011 when they passed a temporary 67 percent tax increase on individuals and a 46 percent increase on corporations. And despite the fact that pensions have consumed more than three-quarters of the tax hike revenue, Illinois’ pension systems are still at risk of bankruptcy.
Now politicians are back for more.
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan is willing to challenge state constitutional law by passing a budget bill that’s $3 billion larger than the revenues the state will take in in 2015. That’s his way of coercing legislators to vote for the 33 percent state income tax hike, rather than letting the 2011 temporary tax partially sunset according to law.
If legislators want the oversized budget, Madigan says, they’ll have to plug the hole with the tax hike.
The urge to fix problems with tax hikes has become contagious in Illinois. It’s not just the state that’s headed down this path – local governments are following suit.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is demanding property tax hikes to help prop up two of the city’s collapsing pension funds. If he follows that same blueprint for the city’s other pension funds, he’ll ask Chicagoans to cough up billions more in property taxes.
To make matters worse, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle also wants her share of property tax hikes to fix the county’s ailing pensions.
The passion for tax hikes statewide means a Chicagoan could face higher state, county and city taxes in 2015.
Madigan’s, Quinn’s, Emanuel’s and Preckwinkle’s obsession with tax hikes goes counter to what other states in the Midwest are pursuing.
Missouri cut taxes just this month. Indiana, Ohio and Michigan have all passed tax reform. And Wisconsin is even handing out property tax rebates. Politicians in these states understand that cutting taxes makes their states more competitive.
Illinois politicians had better rethink their tax hike strategy.
If not, frustrated taxpayers will continue fleeing to states with less tax-obsessed politicians.