Senate Week in Review: March 24-28
SPRINGFIELD, IL – Gov. Pat Quinn used his March 26 budget address to push for a permanent extension of his 2011 income tax hike, painting a dire picture of severe cuts to state programs if the 67 percent tax increase is phased out as he promised it would be in 2011.
But, Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said ever-changing numbers and wildly divergent predictions undermine the credibility of the Governor and his legislative allies and raise doubts that the promised phase-out of a portion of the tax hike would be as catastrophic as tax hike advocates claim.
Republicans said Quinn is shifting budget figures to substantiate his claims, just as he cherry-picked economic statistics to try to make his management of the state’s economy look better.
During the budget speech, Quinn attempted to paint a rosy picture of the state’s economy under his watch. It was an image that sharply conflicts with what many Illinoisans are experiencing in a state that now has the second highest unemployment rate in the nation.
“Five years after Governor Quinn took office, he has finally presented a five year plan for Illinois, yet if it looks anything like the past five years, we won’t see any change,” Sen. Rezin said. ‘It will be more of the same for Illinois – high taxes, high unemployment, a decrease in population, an unbalanced budget and soaring deficits.”
Under Quinn Illinois has seen its poverty rate climb by 20%. The state has been cited as having one of the poorest prospects for job growth in the coming year, has been cited by moving companies as a state where more people are moving out than moving in and currently holds the worst credit rating of any state in the nation.
“Three years after the income tax increase, the state has brought in an additional $26 billion in revenue – yet nothing has changed,” Sen. Rezin said. “We currently have the second highest unemployment rate in the nation, the worst credit rating in the nation, and we’re ranked last in prospective economic growth – all of which have come about under Pat Quinn. I wish we could deliver better news, but facts are facts.”
While the Governor claimed to have cut spending, Illinois is actually spending more than at any other time in its history.
Critics say Quinn has a long history of questionable credibility. They point out that when Quinn approved the tax hike in 2011, it was after breaking a pledge to reject any increase above 1 percent and to require that all tax dollars go to education.
This year’s budget address was delayed by more than a month because Quinn asked for additional time to submit a detailed five-year budget plan to the legislature. However, when the budget address came, his vaunted five-year plan consisted of just two single-page spreadsheets.
Lawmakers pointed out that the Governor painted a “doomsday” picture of what the state would suffer if the tax increase were allowed to expire as promised, and then laid out a budget with massive new spending proposals and giveaways if the tax hike is extended. They wondered how the state could afford such lavish spending, if the budget situation were truly as tight as claimed.
Republican legislators have grown frustrated over the years, as the Governor and legislative Democrats ignored their warnings that significant spending cuts were needed to assure that the 67% tax hike would be temporary.
They recall that when the tax hike was adopted, the Governor and legislative Democrats promised it would:
• Pay off old bills– it didn’t;
• Generate jobs— it hasn’t;
• Improve Illinois’ credit rating—it didn’t.
In fact, the bill backlog is still in the billions, and Illinois lags behind its neighbors and peer states in economic growth. Of note:
• Illinois has a bill backlog exceeding $6 billion—despite 2011 assurances by Democrats the tax increase would be used to pay down that backlog and get the state’s fiscal house in order.
• Illinois has the second highest unemployment rate in the nation—higher than any neighboring state and higher than any comparable state;
• Illinois has the worst credit rating in the nation—the state has received 13 credit downgrades during Quinn’s tenure, more than all other Illinois Governor’s combined.
Sen. Rezin noted how neighboring states are tightening their belts while still providing necessary services and they have seen their deficits turn into surpluses. For example, Indiana went from a $1 billion deficit in 2011 to a $2.1 billion surplus this last year and they voted to lower their income taxes. Similarly, Wisconsin had a $3.6 billion deficit in 2011 and went to a $2.7 billion surplus.
“What was done in Wisconsin and Indiana can be done here too,” Sen. Rezin said. “We can reform and tighten our budget belt while still providing services to those that need it the most. Illinois will not recover without policies that encourage job creation and growth and ease burdens on Illinois residents. I’m not sure when the leaders will understand that their failed policies will not dig Illinois out of its deep hole, but the people of Illinois deserve for them to realize it and enact more sensible policies. They deserve better from their elected representatives.”