They did it again.
For the umpteenth year and counting, Democrats in the General Assembly last week approved a sham of a budget that relies on many of the same gimmicks that have all but bankrupted Illinois.
The one-year spending document, passed without Republican support, doesn’t reduce the state’s record spending. It further relies on delaying paying the state’s bills. It borrows money from special funds to pay for operational expenses. And it counts on inflated future revenue projections that may never materialize.
The budget also doesn’t account for the declining revenue from the scheduled Jan. 1 rollback of the 67 percent “temporary” income tax hike passed by Democratic lawmakers in January 2011.
In his budget address, Gov. Pat Quinn called on lawmakers to make that “temporary” income tax increase permanent. But facing an election in November, many lawmakers didn’t have the stomach to renege on their 2011 promise that the income tax rate would roll back from 5 percent to 3.75 percent on individuals, and from 7 percent to 5.25 percent on corporations beginning in 2015.
A person with a taxable income of $50,000, would pay $625 more a year in income tax under the higher rate.
What all this means is that we’re likely headed for another lame-duck session after the election, during which Democrats again will try to raise taxes with no accountability.
The wild card this time is that Quinn faces a serious election challenge from Republican venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, who opposes making the tax increase permanent. But even if Rauner wins, Democrats could still have the numbers to push through a tax hike and override a veto.
In the meantime, state government will continue spending more than it can afford as our elected officials further delay in making the tough decisions on spending cuts that needed to be made years ago.
The scary thing is, as bad as Illinois is financially now, it still hasn’t reached rock bottom. As hard as it might be to believe, things still can get worse.
As long as Quinn and the General Assembly continue down the tax-more-and-spend-more road, we should expect the worst.