Good Money After Bad?
By Patrick F. Cannon
I suspect that if all the money that’s being spent trying to convince Illinois citizens how to vote on the graduated income tax amendment was instead spent paying some of the state’s outstanding debts, we would all be better off.
Before it’s over, I guess that much more than $100 million will be tossed into the fray. Several billionaires have kicked into the “anti” fund; while our own billionaire Governor Pritzker has reportedly ponied up $50 million to get it passed. He and his supporters – the politicians who have spent the state into bankruptcy, and the public employee unions – are pleased to call it the “Fair Tax Amendment.” What is really should be called is the “Bail Us Out Amendment.”
On the surface, the claim that a graduated income tax – with the poor paying next to nothing and the rich picking up more of the tab – seems to make some sense. And I would be tempted to vote “yes” if I didn’t know that the state’s finances have been mismanaged for decades; and that the Democratic Party is just looking for another bailout.
Let me remind you that the state’s pension funds are still underfunded by $137 billion (an amount, by the way, that most experts believe is considerably higher); along with a shortfall of $56 billion in retiree medical benefits. Despite the increase in the flat tax to 4.95 percent, the State has been unable to make a dent in the $7 to 8 billion in unpaid bills that it has consistently owed suppliers for years.
Governor Pritzker has been praised for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. I agree that he has done better than most. But I remember one of his daily news conferences when he mentioned the financial hit that Illinois would take. He was asked this sensible question: should the state be cutting jobs and other expenses as other states had been doing? “No,” he said (and I paraphrase), “this is not the time to lay off the workers who provide such essential services.” While that may have been true of public health workers, what about the dozens of state departments, agencies, bureaus and boards that had nothing to do with the virus? Our diligent media failed to ask that follow-up question.
Well, just the other day, our earnest governor gloomily predicted he might be forced to ask those same state departments, agencies, bureaus and boards to make five percent across-the-board cuts if Illinois didn’t get an expected Federal bailout. Five percent! As if this was a catastrophic amount that would leave the good people of Illinois homeless, heatless and hungry.
Cutting government jobs is anathema to a Democratic Party that has developed this symbiotic relationship with its public employee unions: we’ll protect your jobs; in return, you will donate money and election workers to perpetuate our power. Illinois isn’t the only state that features this partnership, but it is the most successful in preventing budget or any other needed reforms. Need I remind the citizens and taxpayers of Illinois (and other states) that the union dues that supports Democratic candidates actually is paid by them – our taxes pay the worker, he or she pays union dues, part of which goes to support only one party? Did you ever get a “thank you” note? Especially you Independents and Republicans?
By the way, the graduated tax amendment had no trouble finding its way to the ballot. Two initiatives that the majority of Illinoisans favor — pension reform and the so-called “Fair Maps” amendment that would take legislative redistricting out of the hands of the party in power – have never made it to the ballot. For some reason, the Democratic-controlled Illinois Supreme Court always finds some arcane technicality to keep them off.
In Illinois, as always, you get what you pay for.
Copyright 2020, Patrick F. Cannon