Illinois Democrats were dead-set on raising the state's personal income tax by a whopping 83 percent. But in a stunning and miraculous turn of events, they decided to go easy on their already mightily-struggling constituents. In a deal reportedly reached tonight, Gov. Pat Quinn and legislative leadership decided to with a mere 75 percent income tax increase, coupled with a modest 102 percent cigarette tax hike that will gently nudge countless jobs across state lines and steal a disproportionate amount of impoverished Illinoisans' income with a wink and a smile.
The above, of course, is laced with sarcasm and disappointment. That's a $15 billion solution reached almost single-handedly by tax increases in a state with an unemployment rate hovering near 10 percent. This, shortly after the legislature sent an "Amazon tax" to the governor's desk that would completely eradicate an entire industry in the state. And mere months after both the legislature and the governor completely punted on any real spending reform and willfully ignored a mandatory pension payment.
Elections have consequences. And with all due respect to the Illinois electorate, they got it so, so wrong in November. Pat Quinn won re-election with 46.6 percent of the vote campaigning on a massive tax increase that the public overwhelmingly opposed, then fabricated a "mandate" to ram an even bigger-than-promised tax hike through a legislature with one foot out the door. Less than one week away from a new, slightly improved assembly, Quinn joins House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton in essentially thumbing his nose at the democratic process and getting his way just in the nick of time.
What does this mean for Illinois? A number of unfortunate things. The state's most prominent economic advantage, it's national-low 3 percent flat income tax is now history. Its competitive tobacco tax advantage is all but wiped out, eliminating convenience stores' and other small businesses' price advantage and the jobs it once brought. And, most importantly, it removes any necessity for meaningful, lasting spending restraint in Illinois. When politicians are allowed to treat taxpayers like Automated Tellers, there is zero incentive to be anything other than profligate and reckless.
Elected officials are attempting to affix the "temporary" tag to these tax increases. The Herald-News notes the time period for their "temporary" nature remains "fluid." That really says it all about Illinois electeds.
There is still time to stop them, of course. There has been no vote as of tonight. But if this deal holds, Illinois Democrats are a far worse lot than I could have ever imagined.