For most families and most governments, finances are a bit like a roller coaster ride. There are ups and downs and some twists and turns along the way. For the State of Illinois, however, the past few decades have been more like a never-ending ride on a merry-go-round; stuck going around the same circle year after year: the majority party in the General Assembly wants more money to cover their spending … so they raise taxes … because of the high taxes, more families and businesses leave the state … because taxpaying families and businesses leave there is less money coming in to the state coffers to cover the majority party’s spending … so they raise taxes … so more families and businesses leave…and on and on it goes.
Despite the $5 billion income tax increase forced on Illinois taxpayers and employers last year, our financial situation remains dire. As I write this, a check of “the Ledger” on the state Comptroller’s website shows our current backlog of unpaid bills at more than $8.2 billion.
U. S. News and World Report in a March feature reported that in Fiscal Year 2017 Illinois’ general fund budget deficit grew to a record $14.6 billion; a 52 percent increase. The feature also stressed that we currently have the lowest credit rating and are paying more to borrow money to cover our spending/expenses than any other state in the nation.
We have two months left in our scheduled spring legislative session and my top priority as always will be working on a responsible, balanced budget that breaks the cycle of ever-increasing debt and puts us on the path to financial stability. I have said it before, but it bears repeating – our first step to putting together a balanced budget must be adopting a realistic revenue estimate. We need to know how much we will have to spend to craft a budget that lives within those means.
We also must reject plans to again increase taxes. Several versions of new “graduated” or “progressive” income tax are circulating in Springfield. While sponsors of the plans say they’re taxing high income earners, make no mistake working families will pay, and more will leave Illinois.
We desperately need to get off the debt merry-go-round. We can do that by working together to pass our first responsible, truly balanced budget in decades.