Governor 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.
However, 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 Governor 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, Governor 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.
Under Governor 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.
While the Governor claimed to have cut spending, Illinois is actually spending more than at any other time in its history.
This year’s budget address was delayed by more than a month because Governor 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 Governors combined.
In other action during the week, a Federal Trade Commission analysis has determined that legislation I am sponsoring to allow Sunday car sales in Illinois would “provide significant benefits for Illinois consumers.”
Senate Bill 2629 repeals the 30-year prohibition that has prevented Illinois consumers from being able to buy cars on Sundays.
Since 1983, car dealerships in Illinois have been forbidden to be open on Sundays under penalty of a $1,500 fine. A majority of states allow automobile sales on Sundays, and car dealers in Illinois should be free to choose whether they wish to be open or closed on Sundays without government interference.”
I asked the Federal Trade Commission to comment on the likely competitive impact of Senate Bill 2629. The Commission’s Office of Policy Planning Bureau of Competition/Bureau of Economics analyzed the legislation and sent its findings in a letter dated March 26. The letter’s conclusion states, in part,
“Repealing the Sunday sales ban would ensure that the competitive process, not legislative directive, determines auto dealers’ hours of operation and the availability of other related services. The current law makes it more difficult for Illinois consumers to comparison shop and raises their search costs, which may lead to higher prices, less favorable terms of sale and lease, reduced output of sales and service, and a market that is unresponsive to consumer preferences.”
Filed on December 3, 2013, Senate Bill 2629 has been assigned to the Senate Transportation Committee, but has not been allowed a public hearing.
This analysis and recommendations from the FTC bolster the argument for repealing this ban. Senate Bill 2629 should not be bottled up in committee. It should be sent to the Senate for full, public legislative debate. We need to rethink the weak argument that car dealers should be closed Sundays to give their employees a day off and keep costs down. Plenty of other employers and stores set their hours – with full consideration of what their competition is doing – without input from the government.
There also appears to be some early support from the public, based on an informal media poll.
On November 22, 2013, a Chicago Tribune columnist took a look at the proposal to end the ban on Sunday car sales, pointing out that consumers want the change and would benefit saying, “Welcome, at last, to modern commerce. You know why competitive reasons will force car dealers to open on Sundays? Because a lot of people are off work on Sundays and free to go shopping for cars!”
The blog by Eric Zorn also asked readers: Should Illinois law continue to forbid car dealers from being open on Sundays? These most recent results posted: Yes: 38.43%; No: 61.57%.