Published in the Chicago Tribune
|Rep. Jeanne Ives|
The reasons for the exodus aren't a mystery. Public polling shows the No. 1 reason Illinoisans want out is high taxes. So what's the response from the Illinois Senate? Raise taxes again, forcing the families that stay in our state to pay more for the sins of the political class. It's insanity. Illinoisans deserve better.
The Senate plan now on the bargaining table in Springfield has been branded a "grand compromise." A grand compromise with whom? Taxpayers clearly don't have a seat at that table. The multibillion-dollar tax-hike plan is a handshake between politicians and special interests that does nothing to fix our state's structural overspending. In fact, another tax increase will be the final nail in the coffin for Illinois.
No one should be surprised at how out of touch the 13 bills that make up the "compromise" really are. The Senate leaders involved have been working together for nearly two decades, putting in place many of the policies that are now taking a toll on our state. What's new is that the heat is on. Calls to "do something" echo throughout Illinois.
After decades of living in the Springfield bubble, Senate leaders have indeed done something. They've forgotten the common Illinoisan in their tone-deaf "compromise."
Among the Senate plan's many faults: It doesn't end Illinois' broken defined-benefit pension system. It brings no relief to local governments from expensive state mandates. It bails out Chicago Public Schools without requiring any reforms from the district. It makes no reforms to the state's largest and most expensive welfare program, Medicaid. And it includes a watered-down, two-year property tax freeze that does little to protect communities from higher tax burdens.
We need to change the debate. Illinois lawmakers can't continue to tinker around the edges with proposals that are weak on reform while taking billions of dollars more from residents. Thankfully, a bold proposal from the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute provides a framework lawmakers should use to craft the next state budget.
The Illinois Policy Institute's plan balances the state budget without tax increases. It is exactly what the General Assembly needs as a starting point for real compromise.
The institute's plan gets politicians out of the retirement-planning business by putting the state on the path to ending the broken defined-benefit pension system once and for all. It demands the state prioritize students over administrators in higher education. It streamlines Medicaid spending to better focus on the state's high-need residents. And it calls for a fair contract with unionized state workers, who are currently the highest-paid in the nation when adjusted for cost of living.
No serious budget plan is complete without addressing Illinoisans' biggest tax burden: property taxes. The institute plan imposes a five-year property tax freeze that reforms expensive Springfield mandates, and ends a great number of state subsidies that fuel local overspending.
Illinoisans deserve to feel secure in knowing that ever-higher property tax bills will not force them out of their homes. But they can't get that security in this state, which is home to the nation's highest property taxes. So they leave.
The Senate "compromise" will serve only to force even more Illinoisans out of our state. Until state lawmakers make an honest effort to curb unaffordable spending, they have no right to ask for another dime from taxpayers.
Jeanne Ives is a Republican state representative from Wheaton.
Click HERE to read the commentary in the Chicago Tribune.