SPRINGFIELD – Politicians are like water – they always take the easiest path.
When faced with difficult decisions this year, the Illinois General Assembly sat on its hands and told you a fib.
We were told Illinois government is entering a period of “austerity.”
This year’s budget is $850 million more than last year’s.
And folks, most of that extra spending is being paid for through borrowing.
The politicians raided special-use funds throughout state government, harvested $650 million and then promised to pay it back in 18 months.
But I haven’t heard anyone explain just how they plan to pay it back.
If we don’t have the money to pay for that extra spending now, how will we have the money in a year and a half to pay for that continued level of spending and pay back the borrowed money?
Hang on to your wallets, folks.
In the backrooms of the Illinois Statehouse they already are talking about shoving a tax hike down our throats – after the election – but before the new General Assembly is sworn in.
These types of lame-duck shenanigans have a long, pathetic history in the Prairie State. Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty.
But this time all eyes are on Mike Madigan, the longtime speaker of the House and state Democratic Party chieftain.
He has said he is committed to making the temporary 67 percent income tax hike permanent. But he contends he didn’t have the votes to pass it this session.
I’ve seldom seen Madigan not get what he wants.
But he is a patient man. Exceedingly patient.
Look for arms to start getting twisted once the election is over.
The actions of this year’s General Assembly are geared toward precipitating a crisis.
There are elements within state government and among those who enrich themselves at taxpayers’ expense that so want a tax hike they are willing to do anything to ensure it happens.
No serious efforts were made to cut overall state spending despite Illinois having $5 billion in unpaid bills and the worst-funded pension system in the nation.
Because some politicians would rather jack up your taxes instead.
Back in 2011, when lawmakers raised our taxes by 67 percent and promised it would be temporary, we were assured it was just to buy lawmakers some time to put the state’s fiscal house in order.
But Illinois remains the economic basket case of the Midwest. Our unemployment rate is one of the highest in the nation. And now the politicians are trying to go back on their word and make the tax permanent.
If they didn’t put the state’s fiscal house in order with the last tax hike, why would we think they would with another one?
I haven’t heard a satisfactory answer to that question.
Taxpayers won a victory Friday when the legislature adjourned without raising taxes. But the war is far from over.
Hang on, it’s going to be one heck of a fight.
• Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and a journalist with Illinois News Network, a project of the Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow his work on Twitter @scottreeder.