Fresh from his announcement of Illinois’ plan to fleece residents with an income tax hike necessary because state lawmakers are bereft of the slightest understanding of the term “fiscal restraint,” Governor Pat Quinn laughed in the faces of taxpayers by following up the tax increase with his signing of the “Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act.” The bill adds Illinois to the handful of states permitting couples in civil unions to benefit from their relationships in the same fashion as married folks.
The January 31, 2011 press release accompanying the signing of the bill is insulting to anyone unfortunate enough to conduct their life or business in Illinois. Despite the PR blather and the act’s self-justifying title, forcing taxpayers and employers to fund benefits for partners engaged in civil unions is a giveaway that has little to do with religious freedom or equality. Given Illinois’ precarious financial situation, one wonders whether the push to sign the bill was intended to either retain residents, or to lure new taxpayers to the state. The bill covers opposite-sex as well as same-sex unions, but it has been criticized as a gateway gay marriage measure. For purposes of expense, Illinois would have been better off had it only applied to same-sex relationships. According to the press release, “thousands” of state residents are affected, though precisely how is not explained. If the reference includes the expansion of benefits, particularly public employee benefits, “thousands” is a daunting figure, given that Illinois is the poster child for the movement to permit state bankruptcies.
The law will require many employers offering spouse health insurance benefits to provide those benefits to civil union partners. Public employee benefits are a large part of what drove Illinois down the road to ruin, and officials have not been clear as to the potential cost, in part because no one knows how many civil unions there are. It is wholly irrelevant whether this bill is right, just, moral, or necessary. The state’s residents and businesses cannot afford one more dime of expense. State officials admit that the income tax increase will not solve Illinois’ problems. Lawmakers should be considering what expenses they will cut next, instead of coming up with ways for the state and its residents to spend more of what they do not have.