2017 was not a banner year for Illinois taxpayers.
During the five months the Illinois General Assembly was in regular session, state lawmakers passed 615 new bills.
What did taxpayers get from these bills? Reforms to boost Illinois’ economy, which is lagging behind the rest of the nation? Solutions to fix the state’s $250 billion pension crisis?
Nope. State lawmakers chose to spend time passing bills designating corn as the state grain, shelter cats and dogs as the state pet, milkweed as the state wildflower, and cycling as the state exercise.
They also used their time to debate whether the state should mandate that schools teach cursive writing, and whether restaurants should label a menu item as catfish if the item doesn’t actually contain catfish.
There may be nothing wrong with the content of these laws; however, the General Assembly should have devoted its time and energy to passing desperately needed reforms that would put Illinois on a path toward prosperity.
Debating and passing legislation on comparatively minor matters wastes time and taxpayer dollars.
Unfortunately, relatively inconsequential bills weren’t the only legislation that passed this year. The General Assembly also handed Illinois taxpayers the most expensive budget in Illinois’ history. The budget relied on a massive income tax hike to fund it, yet is still unbalanced.
The permanent income tax hike that passed in July will cost taxpayers an additional $5 billion annually. This means each Illinois household will have to pay an additional $1,125 in taxes each year, on top of what that household already pays.
On top of the income tax hike, lawmakers also passed a new school funding formula that bails out the financial mismanagement of Chicago Public Schools and will cost state taxpayers billions of dollars more over the years.
Instead of tax hikes and more spending, Illinois needs change. When lawmakers fail to enact needed reform, they hurt taxpayers.
But 2018 is a new year – Illinois’ bicentennial year, in fact.
When lawmakers return to Springfield in January, here’s what they need to address:
- Illinois’ high tax burden – Illinois’ property taxes and state and local tax burden are among the highest in the nation. These taxes are making Illinois an unattractive place to live and work. In fact, the Land of Lincoln sees a net loss of one person every five minutes to another state.
- Illinois’ growing cost of government – Illinois taxpayers’ incomes remain stagnant, but the cost of their government continues to grow. Bad policies, such as Illinois’ unfair government union bargaining laws, stack the deck against taxpayers and raise the cost of state and local government.
- Illinois’ toxic business climate – Until state lawmakers are willing to tackle reforms that make Illinois a place where businesses want to invest, job-seekers will continue to struggle. In 2017, nearly 97,000 Illinoisans dropped out of the workforce, meaning many have given up on finding a job. The state’s economy has been lagging the rest of the nation for 50 years, and people are suffering – or leaving altogether.
2017 was a year of the “same ol’ same ol’” in Illinois – tax hikes, overspending and following the political status quo. Illinois is in the midst of a fiscal crisis, and it’s time lawmakers become serious about implementing meaningful reforms. Otherwise, the state will continue to spiral deeper into its fiscal mess.