Editorial: Spend, spend, spend still mantra of state assembly

2013-06-09T07:00:00Z Editorial: Spend, spend, spend still mantra of state assemblyBy The Pantagraph Editorial Board pantagraph.com
June 09, 2013 7:00 am  • 

Generally ignored in the General Assembly’s adjournment at the end of May was the legislature’s action on a state budget.

The budget that will soon land on Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk calls for total general fund spending of about $35.4 billion. That’s $2 billion, or about 3 percent, more than the budget for the current fiscal year.

Public education and higher education will receive basically the same funding and there is not a plan to close prisons or others state facilities in the budget.

But there’s also a lot that’s troubling about the new budget. The most troubling is that it appears the state is continuing to live beyond its means.

The General Assembly added about $2 billion to the spending plan when April tax revenues increased by about $1 billion. Legislators seemed to believe that one month was a trend and increased revenue estimates for the fiscal year. Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka thinks April was an anomaly, but the General Assembly didn’t listen.

The new budget also doesn’t adequately address the state’s unpaid bills problem, which Topinka believes will be $7.5 billion by the end of August. That’s a slight improvement over the past, but it’s still a huge number.

Instead of using the unexpected tax revenue to pay off its debt, the General Assembly decided to buy some shiny new toys.

The Department of Transportation budget includes $71 million to finish purchasing the land for an airport in Peotone, according to Crain’s political columnist Greg Hinz. The necessity of a third Chicago-area airport is certainly questionable. If one is needed, locating it 50 miles from downtown Chicago doesn’t seem like the best plan. Finally, if you’re broke, building a new airport is a really, really bad idea.

There’s also a plan to allow $70 million in borrowing for a new stadium for DePaul University, which is a private institution. DePaul will contribute another $70 million to the hotel/stadium project. But doesn’t the Chicago area already have enough stadiums and arenas to house DePaul athletics?

This new budget is brought to you by the same political leaders that imposed a 67 percent increase on our income taxes in 2011. That “temporary” tax is supposed to sunset at the end of 2014. But how do you end that tax when any extra money gets spent immediately? How can taxes be returned to their usual level, if the state keeps spending more money? You can’t. That’s why it’s likely that all or part of the “temporary” tax increase will become permanent.

Voters can stop that from happening, but it will require close questions of our elected representatives during the 2014 elections.

Copyright 2015 pantagraph.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(6) Comments

  1. bobbysprinkles
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    bobbysprinkles - June 09, 2013 2:07 pm
    BC, the fact that you are defending the tax increase can only mean you fall into one of two categories. 1. You live off gov't assistance or 2. You have never sat down and put pen to paper and added up how much you pay in taxes each year... If you fall into category 2 I highly encourage you to do so. Property tax, income tax, federal tax.... Add them up... Dont even include your sales tax.... its sickening.....
    You may change your tune
  2. Archie Goodwin
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    Archie Goodwin - June 09, 2013 10:18 am
    If as you say our tax rates (income) are on par with surrounding states, then why is our state's economy in the toilet and they are prospering? Indiana had a surplus last year and actually returned money to the taxpayer. The only other factor in the equation is spending and money management. We can spend the money wisely (can you say Scott Walker) or we can sign unrealistic pension agreements with the unions and then protect that folly with a constitutional amendment. Until we cut spending there is no solution.
  3. BC
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    BC - June 09, 2013 8:59 am
    Illinois raised the income tax from 3% to 5%, that is a $2 increase on the hundred. Hardly a cause for such complaining. The whiners love the 67% reference it makes their nonsense sound oppressive. We are in line with most states around us. We taxed food same as other purchases for many years, bring it back. If dirt poor Mississippi can survive taxing food so can the people of Illinois. At least raise it a couple percent points, it is 1% presently. O'Hare is the second busiest airport in the country, Chicago probably needs another to take a portion of the load. Chicago is a hub and that is used by many not living in the Chicago area. I'm sure there were a lot more spending examples but hey lets fuel the I hate Chicago whine. The stadium money is a loan not a gift. It will be paid back with interest. What else did they approve, lets hear the whole list. Who ever is elected they will have to figure out how to dig us out of the mess created by kicking the can down the road for 30 plus years. Can't expect business to anti up anymore, they expect bribes or they will take their toys and go home. Never mind business contributes a tiny 7% of taxes raised in the state. In turn the bulk of them pay poverty wages too low to hit the income tax tables and their employees must depend on taxpayer entitlements to survive. I call that double dipping. Little or no tax obligations and government helping cover payroll.
  4. Euler 314
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    Euler 314 - June 09, 2013 8:37 am
    Odd.

    For a newspaper that is constantly called a leftist, socialist (fill in the blank) rag, this editorial sure smacks of extremist rightwing talking points.

    Individual income tax rates were raised to 5 percent from 3 percent in 2011, while corporate income tax rates went to 7 percent from 4.8 percent.

    Sales tax rates were increased in some municipalities in the state, while others were lowered.
  5. Erik
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    Erik - June 09, 2013 7:49 am
    If you are going to denigrate the "ignorant masses" it would be wise to get your facts straight. Illinois raised income taxes, not the state sales tax.
  6. Nshape
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    Nshape - June 09, 2013 7:37 am
    What!? No sunday morning smackdown about teacher pensions where although we make 20-200% less than private sector that we should contribute half our salary, no cola, no health insurance and only receive a pension when it's time for the nursing home? Can't believe you editorial clowns gave it a rest for a week.

    Also, I see you had to throw that "67% increase on our income taxes" out there. Wasn't that sales tax and not income? Seems that they were so eager to get that 67% in there...which has NO practical purpose when trying to mathematically sort through facts....that they got it wrong in their vigorous attempt to stir up the ignorant masses.
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