By Matt Besler

The Democrat-controlled General Assembly left Springfield last week without passing a budget for the third consecutive year. Rather than pass real reforms that protect homeowners and stabilize government services, Democrats attempted to hike taxes. When that approach failed, they did nothing, ignoring the need to pass a budget and instead blaming Governor Rauner.

The Illinois Policy Institute, along with Republicans like Senators Dan McConchie and Kyle McCarter and Representative Allen Skillicorn, have put forth plans to protect families and businesses by balancing the state budget and reforming state government.

Rather than compromise on these policies, in the last days of Session, Senate Democrats ended all budget negotiations and unilaterally passed a five-billion-dollar tax increase with no spending cuts – a proposal similar to the failed 67% tax hike they enacted in 2011.

Illinois desperately needs a balanced budget with reforms. The tax hike plan that Democrats – who control both the House and the Senate – were pushing would have compounded our fiscal problems by locking in higher spending.

Worse still, for as much pain as the tax increase would have caused, the money collected would not have approached the amount needed to pay down the state’s obligations.

The Democrats and their allies in the media want you to believe that Illinois’ problems started when voters elected Governor Rauner to “shake up Springfield” in 2014. Thus, the solution is to pass a budget and raise taxes over the Governor’s objections.

The truth, of course, is our fiscal problems have been building for years. Illinois hasn’t had a constitutionally balanced budget since 2001. Mike Madigan’s reign has left families on the hook for $14 billion in unpaid bills and $250 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Just passing a budget won’t solve the state’s problems.

Democrats ignored these issues and instead doubled-down on hiking taxes on families and businesses rather than passing structural reforms to the government programs they use to maintain power.

Budget negotiations must begin with reforms to the programs that drive state spending up and the policies that drive families and businesses out.

Reforms to government pensions, Medicaid, and education are needed to make government sustainable and should be coupled with property tax relief and changes to workers compensation to make Illinois hospitable to families. A budget that makes spending cuts and structural reforms is the only viable path for the state.

Democrat state legislators will return to their districts and talk about fighting for a responsible budget without acknowledging the pain their policies have brought. Be aware that this is the two-step they play on their constituents. Illinois Democrats hope the people they serve are not sophisticated enough to connect the dots between what they say in the district and what they do in Springfield. They hope another tax hike with the promise of reforms sometime in the abstract future will be good enough.

Don’t let them get away with it.

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