By Steven Malanga
In January 2011, facing a forbidding budget deficit and a backlog of unpaid bills, Illinois officials decided that a massive tax increase would lay the groundwork for the state’s recovery. As Barbara Flynn Currie, the majority leader in the state house of representatives, said at the time, the nearly $7 billion in new revenues would allow Illinois to “pay our old bills and deal with the structural deficit.” The taxes passed with little controversy. Several weeks later, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker proposed fixing state and local fiscal problems by narrowing public-sector workers’ collective bargaining rights and requiring them to contribute more to their pension and health-care benefits. His reforms, which took months to become law, provoked an occupation of the capitol and set off a national debate.
Little more than a year has passed, and Illinois is right back where it started: the state’s unpaid bills now top $9 billion. Meantime, Wisconsin’s state and local governments have made substantial strides toward long-term budget stability.
Food for thought on tax day. I can tell you, our Illinois family has felt the painful bite of Gov. Pat Quinn’s 67-percent tax hike this year.