Critical reforms needed to improve the state’s fiscal footing

Reports highlight need for reforms


A report issued by the Anderson Economic Group, and reported on by Crain’s Chicago Business during the week, highlights Illinois’ ranking among Midwestern states when it comes to tax rates paid by businesses.  In Illinois, businesses paid a rate of 9.4 percent, which is the highest among other Midwest neighboring states, such as Indiana (7 percent), Missouri (7 percent), Ohio (7.3 percent), Michigan (8 percent) and Wisconsin (8.7 percent).   Also, according to the report, “Illinois public utilities and income taxes were relatively high.” 

It was also announced during the week that, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts, Illinois’ unfunded pension liability accounts for 10 percent of the nation’s total pension debt. The total unfunded pension liability for the United States was $1.1 trillion in 2015.  That same year, Illinois’ unfunded liability was $111.55 billion, making it 10 percent of the nation’s total pension debt.


What these reports demonstrate is the need for Illinois to enact common-sense structural reforms, such as pension reform, redistricting reform, term limits and property tax relief, in order to enact a full-year, balanced budget that will provide a strong fiscal foundation for future budget planning, while at the same time making Illinois attractive to employers. 


Budget plan options


Over the past three months, working in a bipartisan manner to break the state’s budget impasse, Senate leaders, with input from members of both sides of the aisle, have been negotiating and developing a budget framework that would create a sustainable, balanced budget complete with the structural reforms necessary to put Illinois on the right fiscal path.  The measures are linked in that they all need to pass in order to be successful.  They address education funding, local government consolidation, debt refinancing, Chicago pension parity, FY17 supplemental budget, gaming expansion, procurement reform, and revenue.  The so-called “grand bargain” had some good ideas, but needs more of an emphasis on cutting spending and less of a reliance on revenue increases.  We do not have a revenue problem as many people think, we have a spending problem.  To emphasize that, Senator Kyle McCarter of Lebanon and Senator Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods have unveiled a multi-point ‘Taxpayer Bargain’ plan for a balanced state budget with no tax increase.  The Fiscal Year 2018 plan includes a mix of traditional money management principles and new ideas.  The package is comprise of 17 separate bills.


Senator Bill Brady of Bloomington has put forth a third proposal that builds on the “grand bargain” plan to propose a full and balanced Fiscal Year 2018 budget that protects the state’s highest priority programs, reins in spending and eliminates two-thirds of the state’s mountain of unpaid bills.  The package is comprised of 7 bills.  


I would certainly like to see Senator McCarter’s plan enacted but, unfortunately, there is little chance that the Democrat-controlled Senate would allow such a plan to pass.  Many Democrats believe our problems could be solved by substantial tax increases.  I believe tax increases without substantial spending cuts and common-sense reforms would merely accelerate the exodus of jobs and people from Illinois. 


Getting Around Illinois


The Illinois Department of Transportation has updated its “Getting Around Illinois” website, a web-based interactive mapping site that provides visitors with the ability to search and display several sources of transportation data.  Those who visit the site can find information on road construction locations, trucking routes, and winter road conditions.

Get your kicks on Route 66

Route 66, the famous stretch of highway connecting Chicago to southern California, has been placed on this year’s “Most Endangered Historic Places” list by Landmarks Illinois.

Since 1995, Landmarks Illinois has asked preservationists, community leaders and concerned citizens throughout the state to nominate threatened or endangered historic properties for its annual list, the Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois.

The purpose of the list is to focus attention on sites threatened by deterioration, lack of maintenance, insufficient funds, or inappropriate development, as well as bolster local advocacy efforts and build support for each property’s eventual preservation.  The Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois list also draws attention to important policy issues that affect these properties and historic properties throughout the state.

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