DuPAGE - Democrats remain in firm control of the Illinois General Assembly, and the Illinois Senate is preparing to vote on a budget deal that will raise taxes while leaving the size of government in place.
The proposal will raise the state's income tax from 3.5 to 4.99 percent, set into motion a new "business opportunity" payroll tax that will weigh heaviest on smaller businesses, along with new service taxes that everyone in Illinois will pay in one way or another.
In return, Democrat- and trial-attorney approved changes to Illinois' workers' compensation program are promised, as well as a temporary, two-year property tax freeze.
Republican leadership appears to be lining up with the Democrats' proposal, implying that the traditional Republican stance of lower taxes and smaller government is no longer realistic for Illinois.
Taxpayers aren't happy with the deal, and are writing their lawmakers to object. College of DuPage trustee Frank Napolitano shared with Illinois Review his correspondence with Republican Senate Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont:
I recently heard that you were negotiating with the Democrats on a potential tax increase for the residents of Illinois. The people of Illinois are already leaving the state at record numbers and this will just make it worse.
The tax increases over the past several years have done nothing to solve the states budget problems because there has been no substantive spending reform.
Look at the tobacco increase put in a few years ago, budgets were approved based on increased revenue from the increased tax, the result was the opposite, sales tax revenue from tobacco sales is declining despite the tax increase. The same can be said about motor fuel taxes. The vast majority of the residents of Illinois are less than an hour drive from a neighboring state. Many of the people of Illinois are already crossing state lines to purchase goods that have lower taxes from our neighboring states which contributes to the declining revenue the state receives from these taxes. Increasing income tax will have a similar effect. There is nothing to prevent someone who works in Chicago and lives in the south suburbs to move to Indiana for example. Moreover businesses are leaving the state at record numbers.
Please, consider the long term impact and unintended consequences of a potential tax increase. Please stand strong to your principals and do not negotiate a tax increase with the democrats.
Senator Radogno responded to Napolitano three days later, saying the state's fiscal situation is so dire that thoughts of cutting the budget enough are "unrealistic":
Thank you for reaching out to express your concerns over the budget framework that is moving through the Senate. At this time, this framework proposal is still a work in progress. However, Senate lawmakers continue to work together to craft a sustainable, balanced budget that will include structural reforms aimed at helping Illinois to maintain predictability and stability in the long run.
As you know, Illinois is facing a financial crisis. Unfortunately, our fiscal situation is so dire that it is unrealistic to think we can “cut” our way out of it. However, I will only consider new revenue if it is tied to transformational reforms, significant cuts to state spending, and passage of a truly balanced budget.
It is important to note this framework is not finalized and will change as negotiations continue to move forward. Please rest assured that I will closely monitor this budget and reform package as it evolves in the coming days and weeks.
I appreciate your feedback on this issue. Your input helps me better represent the needs of our region in the Illinois Statehouse. If and when the time comes to make a decision on components of any budget framework, rest assured the needs of my district, my constituents, job creators and taxpayers will be my top priority.
State Senator, 41st District
Illinois Senate Republican Leader
The Senate is scheduled to return February 7th to vote on the compromise.