If lawmakers do nothing with the debt-ridden state budget, Illinois will be $22 billion in the hole within five years, an area legislator maintains.
“Because there’s been no legitimate review of spending at the state level, our budget has increased over 40 percent in the past 10 years,” State Senator Sue Rezin, R-Morris, noted during this week’s tour of the 38th Senate District.
“So, for all practical purposes, the 67-percent personal income tax increase passed in the (January) lame duck session (by the outgoing General Assembly) was for nothing.”
Even with the tax increase, the state still did not pay its past due bills, nor did it create more jobs. Gov. Pat Quinn then produced his budget plan in March, which includes a 16-percent increase in state funding for four years, and boosts the size of government with 950 new state employee hires.
Quinn also wants to borrow another $9 billion to pay the state’s bills, and for extra spending money, according to Rezin.
“His philosophy is more taxes, bigger government, hire more state employees and borrow more money,” she said. “We feel this isn’t the path we want to go on in terms of increasing spending and a bigger government.”
The Republican Senate delegation has devised a budget and jobs plan, which Rezin says is the only comprehensive proposal wherein legislators searched the financial guide for ways to bring spending down and under control.
The Senate GOP also identified a 30-point jobs recovery plan similar to that of other states.
“Which are doing what they really need to do to attract companies. And, they are usually the border states around Illinois,” Rezin said. “We feel that if we get our budget and spending under control, the other half of that is to start growing our jobs and the economy, and we’ll be able to roll back the income tax increase passed at 1:30 in the morning during the lame duck session.
“We’ll be able to pay our bills on time, kind of a novel concept at the state level. Right now, we’re 9 to 10 months late (with payments), which is unfortunate.”
Although the 67-percent tax increase was touted as a four-year temporary measure, the tax will not come off if lawmakers do nothing to rein in spending.
Which means the state will still have a $22 billion deficit and one of the nation’s worst funded pension systems. Also, the tax does nothing for the state’s current pension problem and the billions of federal dollars Illinois borrowed to extend unemployment benefits.
“Those bills — those loans — are coming due very soon, so we’re kind of headed in the direction of financial disaster,” Rezin said.
The Senate GOP plan includes nine ways to roll back state spending.
“We have said to the other side, that with this $7 billion menu we have provided, and we come to a common agreement on $5 billion, we’ll be able to roll back the income tax increase and pay our bills on time,” Rezin noted. “There’s no need to borrow money, and we’ll go from a $22 billion deficit in 2016 to actually a $4 billion surplus.”
Rezin called the Senate GOP proposal a comprehensive plan to tell the other side they will help with the heavy lifting.
“But, we have got to get away from the discussion of higher taxes, bigger government, more borrowing and more spending, to a discussion of the need to look at our budget and bring down spending, and how we do that, while growing the economy and jobs,” Rezin said.
It’s the first time for Senate GOP or any political party to produce a specific plan after going through the budget for concerns.
Some areas of spending are easy to do, like selling the 2,200 state-owned cars and the thousands of cell phones and Blackberries the state buys and provides with service.
“Also, to get rid of commissions that do nothing but have people who work for them making $100,000 a year, like the Historical Preservation Commission. And, the airplanes,” Rezin said. “I tried to pass legislation to sell the planes, but it got sent back to committee. This basically means it died a very quick death.
“We’re spending $8 million on state airplanes. We have a very sophisticated fleet of state airplanes for emergencies and fly around the state. But, it also flies legislators back and forth to Springfield in session. That is not telling taxpayers we’re being diligent with their money.”
Pensions and health care are growing at an unsustainable rate, Rezin said. Medicaid, for one, has increased from $6.5 billion five years ago to $10.5 billion today.
She says one answer is finding ways to keep business in Illinois, and how to attract outside businesses to locate in the state. Illinois is not even on the short list of businesses who plan to invest in other states, she says.
“Because of our high taxes, huge deficit and our huge pension obligations,” Rezin added. “These hurdles we have put out there tells businesses we’re not open to business — we don’t want you here, go to another state.”