On Nov. 6, Illinoisans will not be voting whether to impose term limits on state lawmakers.
On Nov. 6, Illinoisans will not have a choice in half of the 157 General Assembly seats up for election.
On Nov. 7, the machine will continue steadily grinding through Illinoisans' tax dollars.
We've passed the deadline for any ballot questions that would change the Illinois Constitution. That deadline saw the demise of a question to voters about a progressive state income tax. It also saw the end of the push for term limits and fair legislative maps.
While voters will not be weighing in on the progressive tax this year, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and allies of Democratic governor candidate J.B. Pritzker are far from done with it.
Here's why that is cause for more worry.
On Tuesday, after some budget progress between Gov. Bruce Rauner and legislative leaders, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said this: “We have a general understanding, I think, about how much money we have coming in and there’s some variables in terms of — we have a general idea of I think how much we need to spend."
"Need to spend." Right there is the problem.
You know how much money your family has, and must adjust your spending. Springfield figures out how much money you can produce, and must adjust how much less money you will have.
Illinoisans just were forced to give another $5 billion when lawmakers overrode a veto to increase the state income tax rate to 4.95 percent. It still isn't enough, so there is a push for a progressive tax. They keep saying it is a "soak the rich" tax — funny coming from rich guys like Madigan and Pritzker — but they continue to refuse to offer specifics so we can see who really gets soaked.
They want more money. They don't push taxation that doesn't produce more money.
The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability projects the flat tax needs to increase from 4.95 to 6.45 percent to keep pace with state spending. That argues for a progressive tax, said Chicago Democratic state Rep. Robert Martwick.
“That’s not politics, that’s math,” Martwick said.
That's state lawmaker math, where spending needs no controls. Here's a little more lawmaker math, from the Republican side: “The amount of money that needs to be raised through a progressive income tax alone isn’t $2 billion, it’s $8 billion,” state Rep. Steven Reick, R-Woodstock, said. “That would destroy the Illinois economy.”
To soak us for $8 billion more, lawmakers will need to call a whole lot more of us "rich."
With that backdrop, let's return to the other efforts to fix the machine. We hoped voters, who are 80 percent in favor of term limits and 72 percent in favor of impartially drawn legislative district maps, would have been able to use those tools to repair something that obviously can't fix itself.
The method of limiting terms by voting the rascals out can't work when half, or 77 of the 157 "races" for Illinois House and Senate, are uncontested in November. There's little hope of fixing the political imbalance when Republicans failed to get someone on the ballot in 55 of those 77 "races." There's little hope of a race when the politicians control who votes for them and create districts that keep them safely in office for as long as they choose.
It's Catch 22. But in Illinois, when tax time rolls around, it's Catch U 2.