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National Editorials & Columns

Reeder: Taxpayer victory fleeting with state budget

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.

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? Beats me.

In the backrooms of the Illinois Statehouse they are already talking about shoving a tax hike down our throats – after the election – but before the new General Assembly gets sworn in.

These types of lame-duck shenanigans have a long, pathetic history in the Prairie State. Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of these types of antics.

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. 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.

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.   Why? 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 get the state’s fiscal house in order.

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 sreeder@illinoispolicy.org.

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