Marijuana. Gambling. And more taxes. That’s how Governor Pritzker expects to put Illinois on the road to fiscal solvency.
Pritzker’s proposed “fixes” to Illinois’ financial problems are based on the premise that the state doesn’t have a spending problem, but a revenue problem. How does a state that has passed two record high income tax hikes in the last eight years and continues to burden homeowners with some of the highest property taxes in the nation still have a revenue problem?
The answer is simple. Politicians have made spending promises they know they can’t keep and passed unbalanced budgets until they need to turn to taxpayers to bail them out.
In Pritzker’s address, he did rightfully point out that the state’s financial problems didn’t occur overnight, but have been decades in the making, all while the longest serving Speaker in the U.S., Mike Madigan sat behind him.
Pritzker also spoke of “new ideas and new vigor” to solve old problems. But instead it was the same idea, that the state needs more of your money. The progressive income tax is the staple of Pritzker’s economic plan but he refuses to reveal what those rates actually look like and who will be hit with a higher income tax. If it’s similar to a proposal introduced by State Rep. Martwick, then people making only $17,300 a year will have to pay more. How does that sound “fair?”
Worse, Pritzker took aim at the one new idea that has actually showed promise in Illinois. Two years ago, the General Assembly created a pilot scholarship program for low-income families to send their kids to the school of their choice. Pritzker’s program puts these families on the chopping block.
Daisy Chavez, a single mom working paycheck to paycheck on the southwest side of Chicago, is able to send her children to St. Gall with the help of the tax credit scholarship program and the Big Shoulders Fund. She says the school has “made a big difference in the way her children view school and themselves.” What does Gov. Pritzker know that Daisy doesn’t?
Gov. Pritzker claims to want to improve education. He’s gone so far as proposing an extra $375 million in funding for K-12. But why is he so intent on shuttering a program that served 6,700 families last year?
The Governor’s budget address isn’t about budgeting. It is about political priorities, repaying election allies, and cementing voting coalitions.
That is why Pritzker forced through a minimum wage hike last week with no bipartisan or small business support and barely time to debate it. He had a debt to repay. That is why Pritzker needs speedy passage on the legalization of recreational marijuana and sports betting. He’s already budgeted and spent the money.
In addition, Pritzker also wants a $.05 plastic bag tax, higher taxes on tobacco products and e-cigarettes, and a tax on insurance companies to subsidize the state’s Medicaid program.
Unfortunately, for the rest of us, the policies of taxing, spending, and borrowing have failed before and will continue to fail.
At the beginning of his address, Pritzker said “all who serve in public office become students of history,” and if history tells us anything, and we refuse to make serious reforms to constrain and prioritize spending and tackle the ballooning pension debt, then history will inevitably repeat itself.
Governor Pritzker has the opportunity to bring both parties together and put Illinois families first, but his budget address indicated he is only worried about special interests and upholding the political status quo.