There's an old joke about the IRS simplifying the tax form.
Line A: How much did you make last year? Line B: Do you have any left. Line C: Hand it over.
If you aren't laughing, it's probably because you live in Illinois, where the legislature and executive branch have found a mission statement in a punchline.
Expect soon you'll be asked to trust them to enact a new tax system, despite repeatedly proving themselves incapable of managing taxpayer money.
What many in Springfield want is to change from a flat tax system -- mandated by the constitution -- to a progressive tax. The switch would require voter approval, and could be on the ballot as early as November 2014.
Lawmakers already have been floating legislation that would allow the change. Unanswered so far are those dangerous nuances, such as income breakdowns and tax scales.
In theory, a progressive tax would seem logical. It would be a sliding scale in those who make little would be taxed little and those who make a lot would be taxed a lot. Supporters say it would bring in more money for the debt-ridden state.
But secreted away are details about that scale and how much the taxes would be. To conspiracy theorists and Illinois taxpayers, though, that smells like a tax hike in the works.
Trust us, lawmakers are essentially saying. Approve the change in the tax structure and let Springfield worry about the fine print and the dollar amounts. The problem is, we've seen what happens when such decisions are left to the Legislature's own devices -- we're all still feeling the pinch.
Trust them? Look back just to 2011. A lame duck Legislature pushed by the governor and Democratic leaders raised the tax from 3 percent to 5 percent -- an increase in tax load of 67 percent.
Trust them? Look back to earlier this year. That's when lawmakers started talking about taking away the word "temporary" from that massive state income tax hike and trying to quietly keep it from falling back to 3.75 percent in 2015 as scheduled.
Trust them? No, trust is earned -- it is a two-way street that would let taxpayers know their best interest is at heart with every vote being made.
That is getting to be the exception and not the rule in Springfield these days. The only thing on the minds of the collective government is sating its voracious appetite for spending without consequence, borrowing without reproach and strapping the backs of taxpayers without remorse.
The state is broke and broken. The pledge that most of the 2011 tax increase would be used to pay off some of the debt turned out to be little more than fabrication of the facts because about 80 cents of every dollar has been dumped into the equally-as-broken state pension system.
The state's unpaid bills, meanwhile, total $5.1 billion and its overall debt continues its unwieldy growth. The budget for the coming fiscal year gives no indication anyone recognizes the problem is not in how much the state takes in but rather how much it overreaches that income. It also must give serious attention rather than sound bites to its massive need for pension reform.
We're just waiting for a reason.
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