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McSweeney: Political gamesmanship, budget gimmicks are failing Illinois

The Illinois state Legislature has become the theater of the absurd. On May 30, Democrats rammed through an unbalanced budget that was cobbled together with a combination of borrowing schemes, fund sweeps, payment delays and inflated revenue projections that have become all too familiar tactics in state government.

The nearly $36 billion budget is not even close to being balanced. The revenue forecast passed unanimously by the House earlier this year using information from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability projected fiscal 2015 revenues to be about $34.495 billion.

Article VIII, Section 2 of the Illinois Constitution states, “Appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year.”

Yet, this is precisely what the Democrat-controlled Legislature did.

Additionally, the budget the Democrats passed includes raiding $650 million of special funds that the state controls. Those funds are earmarked for specific purposes, such as for the Red Cross and the Illinois Veterans Home Fund. The state has roughly 600 of these special funds that generate revenue from fees and grants.

Sweeping the special funds is not a permanent solution to the structural problems that exist in the state budget. The only solution Gov. Pat Quinn and his allies in the House and the Senate seem to have is to raise taxes. The 5 percent personal income tax hike is set to go down to 3.75 percent in 2015 unless lawmakers decide to extend it – something the Democrats tried to accomplish this spring.

However, this victory for taxpayers could be short-lived as they seem to be setting a course to extend the temporary tax in the lame-duck legislative session after the November election. The excuse to raise our taxes will be to pay for the unbalanced budget they just passed.

I am a strong opponent of an extension of the tax increase because the key to economic and financial success is creating a climate for job growth and job creation. The states that are doing well and actually generating a surplus in tax revenue are the states that have gone out of their way to make their states attractive to businesses. Raising taxes is not the way to attract new businesses.

Illinois is doubling down on the policies that have created the current financial mess. Our neighbors to the north in Wisconsin are handing out $500 million in tax breaks. Over to the west, our neighbors in Missouri are giving back to taxpayers as much as $620 million annually. Our neighbors to the east in Indiana have just put their individual income tax rate on a reduction scale, which means their individual tax rate is scheduled to go down to 3.23 percent by 2017. 

The blueprint for success has already been mapped out by our surrounding states, and yet the Democrat leadership refuses to follow that blueprint.

A recently released Gallup poll asked participants if they trusted their state government to solve their state’s problems. Illinois came in dead last, as only 28 percent of Illinoisans trust their state government “a great deal” or “a fair amount.”

All we heard about this spring from Democrats was the state’s revenue problem. If we really want to solve the revenue problem, then we have to bring more jobs to Illinois. Having the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation at 7.9 percent is unacceptable. Instead of sweeping $650 million from specialized state funds or delaying payments to vendors or raising taxes, why don’t we reduce unnecessary spending and cut tax rates across-the-board to create jobs in Illinois?

Surrounding states are creating jobs and have budget surpluses. And what do we have in Illinois? We have high taxes, high unemployment and a bloated, unbalanced farce of a budget.

It is time Quinn and his allies in the House and the Senate spent more time focusing on jobs and less time trying to find new ways to raise our taxes.

• Rep. David McSweeney represents Illinois’ 52nd House District, which includes portions of Algonquin, Barrington Hills, Cary, Crystal Lake, Fox River Grove, Lake in the Hills and Trout Valley.

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