Two separate tax issues for Illinois

July 23, 2013 

You knew that Illinois lawmakers would break their promise that the 66 percent income tax rate increase they approved in 2011 would be temporary. But now they're trying to cloud the issue with talk of switching from a flat tax to a progressive tax -- a system in which wealthier people pay a higher tax rate and the state likely collects more revenue.

These are two separate issues, and this effort to intermingle them is a real disservice to taxpayers.

First, about that temporary tax increase. State leaders said it would avert the state's "fiscal emergency." It was going to be used to pay down the state's bills, ease the state's pension crisis and lead to more responsible budgeting -- none of which has happened.

If the Democrats want to break their word and make the tax increase permanent, they certainly have the supermajorities to do so. We're not sure they will have the political courage to do so, but they have the votes. By keeping the issues separate, they won't be able to hide or excuse going back on their promise.

Illinois has never had a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. When revenues came in higher than expected this year, did the legislators use that extra money to pay off existing debts? No, they increased spending.

Until the governor and lawmakers learn the meaning of fiscal restraint, extra tax dollars will be spent as quickly as they are collected. That will be true whether it's a flat tax or a progressive tax.

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