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Opinion

McCaleb: Christmas in July? Not for Illinois taxpayers 'Scrooged' by Madigan, state lawmakers

Mark your calendars. The Grinch that stole Illinoisans' Christmas did so the first week of July, 2017.

That's when a three-fifths majority of state lawmakers jumped on Grinch-in-Chief Michael Madigan's sleigh and sold out their constituencies to reward the special interest groups – public employee unions, trial lawyers and other political insiders – that have been paying to keep them in office for decades.

It's also the time when Illinois' steady decline to insolvency escalated to full free fall.

Most Americans had the Fourth of July on their minds this week as they opened the lids to their barbecue grills, attended a parade or fireworks show, and enjoyed the holiday celebrating our freedom.

While many Illinois families did the same, they also kept an eye on Springfield. That's where lawmakers in the Illinois House and Senate voted this week to increase our taxes by $5 billion to pay off the most expensive budget in the history of the state. The Senate's vote came on the Fourth of July, the day we celebrate our independence from the tax-hungry British Empire.

Anyone remember the Boston Tea Party from history class?

The House's final vote came Thursday.

That's when 10 Republicans joined Madigan and 60 other Democrats in voting for a permanent, 32 percent income tax increase and 33 percent corporate tax hike. 

Yes, Illinois finally has a budget after more that two years of chaos. Schools will open on time. Human services will be properly funded. But it comes at a huge cost, particularly when lawmakers were too cowardly to address the cost drivers that have pushed the state to the brink.

Tax hikes are the easy way out for lawmakers unwilling to deal with out-of-control spending that funds millionaire public employee pensions and $600,000 golden parachutes to university presidents who demand more tax dollars at the same time they're bypassing hiring rules to give well-paying part-time jobs to their friends.

Bah humbug.

The tax increases go into effect immediately. The next paycheck you receive will have a lot less money in it.

That's bad for Illinois families and bad for the state overall.

Keep in mind, Illinois residents already shoulder the heaviest local and state tax burden in the country. Many have packed up their bags and fled to other states because they couldn't afford to pay their outrageously high property taxes, find a decent job in Illinois' stagnant economy, or both. That only will accelerate after this week's hikes.

Lower take-home income doesn't just hurt families. It hurts local businesses, too. Less disposable income means fewer dollars to spend at local stores, restaurants and the like.

The cost to taxpayers associated with Madigan's tax-increase plan means families either will need to figure out what else to give up – perhaps gifts for their kids at Christmas? – to send more of their hard-earned money to the wasteland that is Springfield. Some certainly will do what more Illinoisans have than any other state – flee to greener pastures.

For some perspective, here's what Madigan's income tax hike looks like:

For a family making $60,000 annually, the extra tax burden is about $60 a month, $720 annually, or $360 for the remainder of 2017.

$360? That's about the price of a new Playstation 4 game system that will be on a number of kids' Christmas lists.

Families earning $90,000 will pay $1,080 more each year in taxes, or $90 a month. That would cover a season of a child's organized sports or other developmental opportunity.

I could continue up the income ladder, but you get the point. You know how you spend your money. And you know how state government wastes it. 

As Illinois residents enjoy their summer, they also should start thinking about how they're going to afford Christmas.

Because the Grinch that is Illinois government would just as soon steal everything.

• Dan McCaleb is news director of Illinois News Network and the digital hub ILNews.org. He welcomes your comments. Contact Dan at dmccaleb@ilnews.org.

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