Illinois’ budget battle: Tax hikes vs. reform

By Nathaniel Hamilton | Watchdog Opinion

It’s overtime at the Illinois Statehouse. A battle over the state budget has forced a stalemate and extended legislative session at the Capitol. The opposing fronts of the debate are the Republican governor, who is pushing for spending reforms, and Democratic legislators, who have an end game of raising taxes.

Democratic lawmakers in Illinois have used nearly every form of political theater to push for a tax hike to fix the state’s budget crisis. But no amount of political showmanship can change the stark fact that balancing the state’s budget by reforming spending – and without tax hikes – is the only sustainable and responsible option for Illinois’ economy.

Democrats have controlled Illinois’ executive branch and legislature for more than a decade, using higher taxes as a first resort to pay for Illinois’ mounting pension debt and bill backlog. The state’s new Republican governor, however, has brought a very different political mindset to the budget discussion.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has demanded a balanced budget that does not raise taxes, along with solutions such as workers’ compensation reform, a property-tax freeze, term limits and redrawing legislative districts. Democrats have resisted the governor’s proposed reforms and instead have pushed for higher taxes and a budget that would spend nearly $4 billion more than the state’s expected revenue.

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