Below is a sample of headlines news outlets have used lately to describe the budget process in Springfield:
“Coming this summer: Rauner versus Democrats”
“Gov. Rauner readies for combat with Madigan and Cullerton”
“Madigan sends message to Rauner with budget vote”
“Gov. Rauner launches offensive in budget battle”
While some are preoccupied with discussing personalities, tactics, and which politicians deserve the most blame, what Illinois families want to know is how different budget proposals will affect their everyday lives.
With political polarization in Springfield the focus, many have ignored the diverse group of Illinois citizens that have formed a consensus on how to fix the state’s budget. Business leaders, human service providers, educators, seniors, and everyday families from across the state are telling lawmakers and the governor to choose revenue to avoid deep cuts that would grievously harm children, families, communities, and the economy. Many are amplifying their voice through the Responsible Budget Coalition, a diverse group of 200 organizations from around the state committed to protecting vital services by choosing to raise revenue.
Illinois residents expect legislators and the governor to craft a budget that makes it possible for working families to make ends meet, enables children to develop and prosper, provides for our veterans, and ensures independence and security for our seniors and those with disabilities. They expect a commitment to public safety and other vital services that local governments provide, higher education that is affordable and accessible, and investments in infrastructure that allow for a strong economy. They expect the governor and the General Assembly to invest in low-cost, prevention measures rather than expensive treatment later on.
Corporate and individual income tax rates automatically dropped by 25% this year, draining billions from the budget. The governor and lawmakers will have to raise revenue in order to continue to make these necessary investments.
Springfield can look to three budget analyses released in May on how to protect important public investments while eliminating the budget shortfall. The analyses come from the business-backed Civic Federation, the independent experts at the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, and the children’s advocacy group Voices for Illinois Children. These analyses have a great deal in common.
Each of these fiscal experts identified expiring corporate and individual income tax rates as the primarily cause of the state’s $6.6 billion budget deficit. Each noted how investment in public services drives economic growth and strengthens families and communities. Each recommended that lawmakers choose revenue over steep cuts to vital services. Finally, each suggested modernizing the sales tax to include additional services, raising corporate taxes, taxing some retirement income, and raising individual income tax rates as options for preventing damaging cuts.
The Voices for Illinois Children report laid out a menu of revenue options, providing the governor and the General Assembly with many choices of how to form an agreement that produces an adequate amount of revenue.
As of this writing, neither the General Assembly nor the governor has produced a balanced budget. Neither has included new revenue in a budget proposal.
Politicians must stop arguing about whose plan is more “phony” and “reckless” and instead work on an adequate revenue package that will not result in harm being done to children, families, communities, and the economy. The longer the governor and General Assembly wait to reach an agreement, the more they threaten the delivery of vital services.
What’s important in this budget debate is not whether Governor Rauner, Speaker Madigan, or President Cullerton get what they want, but whether Illinois children, families, and communities get what they need.
Join the Responsible Budget Coalition in calling for the General Assembly and the governor to prioritize people over politics by choosing revenue.