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Editorials

Our view: Tax increase won't solve state's problems

AP photo 
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, speaks with reporters after a leaders meeting at the Capitol, Monday, July 3, 2017, in Springfield, Ill. Madigan said he would work to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of the tax hike that passed the House on Sunday.
AP photo Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, speaks with reporters after a leaders meeting at the Capitol, Monday, July 3, 2017, in Springfield, Ill. Madigan said he would work to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of the tax hike that passed the House on Sunday.

Whenever enough Illinois House members are able to assemble in Springfield to consider the proposal that would raise personal income taxes on citizens by 32 percent, they should keep this in mind:

Illinois’ state government is not buckling under the weight of its obligations because its people and businesses are not paying enough in income taxes.

Its homeowners are not paying the country’s highest property tax rates because they’re not sending enough of their money to Springfield every year.

Systemic issues are at the heart of our state’s problems: Too much government, underfunded pension systems, too much power granted to public employee unions, and policies that put Illinois at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting businesses.

The Democrats who control the state Legislature have done little to address these issues.

Time and again, their preferred course of action has been to increase taxes on all of Illinois’ workers and businesses, taking billions more out of citizens’ pockets.

Raising the personal income tax rate from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent will make it harder on families. Increasing the business income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 7 percent will hamper efforts to attract and retain employers. But neither will solve Illinois’ problems – not for long, anyway.

Illinois has the most local units of government in the country with about 7,000, thousands more than larger states such as California, Texas, Florida and New York.

For years, Illinois has had more government than its people can afford, but lawmakers have done little to reduce the state’s tangle of local governments and taxing districts, and the property tax burden they place on residents.

Illinois is one of the few states that explicitly grants public school teachers the power to strike on top of collective bargaining rights. Salary growth in schools continues apace with the increasing demand for more money from local property owners each year, as do customary big end-of-career raises meant to boost retiree pensions for teachers and administrators.

About those pensions: The state’s unfunded pension liability is about $130 billion, or more depending on the math you use. That is where most of the money from the last income tax increase went, and without reform, history will repeat itself.

Previous attempts to address the pension issue have been ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court, on the grounds that the constitution says pension benefits can not be “diminished or impaired.”

Have there been any alternative proposals, plans or reform suggestions voted upon? No.

State lawmakers also have not passed any property tax freeze. Families might be hurt by increasing taxes, but lawmakers opposed say that unless property owners pay more every year, government could be hurt.

That is the priority for Illinois Democrats and their leader, House Speaker Michael Madigan: Protect government and its employees, no matter the cost to the rest of us.

The easiest means to that end is to raise taxes and go home.

It will solve nothing. Illinois needs real reform to change course. We need changes to help grow our economy so that there are more employers and taxpayers pitching in to fund a smaller, more efficient government.

Legislators have shown no sign they will move our state in this direction.

Without some commitment to change, state government should not ask for more of its citizens’ money. 

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