The Easter and Passover holidays afforded state lawmakers an opportunity to return to their districts and meet with constituents to get feedback on major issues, before they return to Springfield for the final month of the legislative session.
As part of an ongoing push to rationalize the permanent extension of what was promised to be a temporary income tax hike, Illinois Senate Democrats released figures that purport to show unavoidable education cuts if the hike expires.
However, critics point out that the cuts would only occur if legislators are unwilling to prioritize education spending; something that Senate Republicans say they are willing to do.
State government takes two new hits
In the meantime, the management of Illinois by Gov. Pat Quinn and his legislative allies took new hits. The Wall Street Journal, one of the leading newspapers in the nation, asked in an April 15 editorial, “What’s the Matter with Illinois?”
And, a recent Gallup survey showed that Illinoisans have the least trust in their state government of any state in the nation, with 70% saying they have either “none at all” or “not very much” trust in their government.
Democrats push tax hike
Interestingly, some politicians seemed to be working overtime to highlight that trust issue.
Illinois Senate Democrats released figures which purport to show that schools in Illinois would lose $451 million if Democrats kept their promise to allow the tax hike to roll back in 2015.
Opponents say it’s a matter of priorities
Tax hike opponents, including Senate Republicans, have generally pointed out that an underlying premise of recent budget hearings has been that there is little to no flexibility in state spending and that legislators are incapable of setting priorities and making difficult choices.
That vision of a rigid budget with no flexibility and lawmakers whose hands are tied when it comes to setting spending priorities, is a premise many Republicans take issue with.
They remind taxpayers that within months of the 67% tax hike being enacted, Senate Republicans began warning that lawmakers needed to set priorities and control state spending to allow the tax hike to roll back.
Education cut under Quinn
Education spending has not been a priority under Governor Quinn even with the tax hike. The state’s base spending for education has actually fallen since the tax hike went into effect. In Fiscal Year 2010, the state’s General Funds budget for the State Board of Education was $7.308 billion. In the current year, with the tax hike in effect, the budget is now $6.687 – a cut of $621 million.
Illinois compared to fellow Great Lakes States
In an April 15 editorial the business-oriented Wall Street Journal looked at five Great Lakes states – Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio and concluded “a great comparative policy experiment is taking place.”
While other Great Lakes states have focused on reducing taxes and controlling spending, the newspaper points out that Illinois has been raising taxes and growing government.
Gallup survey: No trust in Illinois government
If Illinois is falling behind its neighbors, it’s probably no surprise to most of its citizens.
A recent Gallup survey shows people living in Illinois have less trust in their government than those living in any other state.