My property tax escrow statement arrived. I owe $1,400 more than I’ve already paid. That’s not a lot of money by any means but a tremendous amount considering my humble residence and what I get in return. I don’t have any kids, but still pay through the nose for teacher’s pensions and schools thanks to a state legislature that panders to unions that raise costs. This is the kind of scenario that typifies why election races like the Pritzker, Rauner battle don’t matter.
No matter who wins, nothing ever changes. This election is no different.
1. Pritzker, Rauner won’t fix pensions
In Illinois the rule is that income tax revenue goes to public pensions first instead of fixing problems or digging us out of debt. As the Illinois Policy Institute observes, this means localities shorted on education funds have to hit taxpayers over the head with higher property taxes.1
That’s a dynamic that isn’t going to change. The pension problem is not going away. The governor’s boast of reducing our liability by $445 million2 is laughable given what taxpayers are on the hook for.
The legislature has proved time and again that it’s not willing to address the issue in any significant fashion. It’s easier and more politically expedient to blame the lack of revenue on not taxing residents enough to close the budget gaps.
Lawmakers’ heads will remain in the sand while state bean counters play games with numbers and Illinois taxpayers pay big to live in a state with one of the worst credit ratings in the nation.
Will Pritzker or Rauner make a difference? Not on your life.
2. Higher taxes: Pritzker isn’t special, Rauner is irrelevant
Moline, Illinois’ WQAD reports that the “balanced” budget passed in 2017 left us over $1 billion in the hole.3 That’s where we left off.
Now everyman “J.B.” promises a tax increase on higher earners. We get that. He’s a Democrat. Higher taxes on behalf of the unwashed masses are usually the first threat out of their mouths. Since Pritzker will invariably have a Democratic legislature to work with, it’s a no brainer that more revenue will happen.
Will the money help Illinois? Absolutely not. We’ve been down this road enough times to know where it ends. More revenue goes to pensions and whatever newsworthy spending vehicles lawmakers can come up with. When it’s over the state runs short and the wealthy get blamed for not paying enough.
Rauner’s role in the revenue fiasco is close to irrelevant. It’s not his fault. Politico describes4 how Republicans sold out to kill his veto of the 2017 tax increase. The lesson is that a Republican in the governor’s office didn’t make a difference then and it won’t make a difference now. There aren’t enough conservative Republicans in the legislature to stop the inevitable.
3. Rauner’s policy stances are confusing and unpredictable
Once you get past the request for money including monthly contributions, Rauner’s campaign website offers a confusing mix of accomplishments that make little sense. He trumps education funding while pensions sink taxpayers and schools. He talks about job growth that’s difficult to separate from the national trend of low unemployment. The governor claims he’s fighting for taxpayers. We’ll let that victory and our growing tax bills speak for themselves.
At the end of the day we have a Republican governor who claims to be fighting for ethical government that keeps families safe despite his signature on the Illinois TRUST Act. As the election looms closer he recently said no to three more permissive immigration bills, including one that sought to establish safe haven zones. That’s not good enough to erase the memory of the TRUST Act.
Rauner’s platform is a confusing mix of half-truths and an egregious sanctuary state sellout. With Pritzker we know where we’ll stand. It won’t be good, but we won’t be confused, either.
That’s not much of a choice. Whichever candidate we choose we’ll likely wind up where we started, albeit with even higher taxes.
4. Rauner & Pritzker are too old school to make new things happen
This election race feels a lot like one of those been there, done that scenarios.
Rauner: been there, done that
With Rauner we’re still in debt. Significant pension reform never happened. Arguably his greatest accomplishment is turning Illinois into a sanctuary state. That’s not something all of us take pride in. Otherwise he’s stuck in the fool’s errand dynamic created by a Republican in the governor’s mansion and Democrats overrunning the capital.
Nothing new about Pritzker, either
Pritzker tries to come off as a new age Democrat. He is anything but, though we can take some amusement in Democrats choosing a member of the 1% to represent them.
J.B. wants to restore fiscal sanity. He won’t. He wants to balance the budget. Accounting tricks aside, Democrats can’t and have no reason to. It’s easier to raise taxes because that plays into the rich vs. poor dynamic. The take will be lost.
The rest of Pritzker’s act is painfully familiar. Whether the issue is social services, education, or his plan for state public option health care, it’s all about using the power of government to seize more cash.
We’ve tried that. It doesn’t work. If you don’t believe this is true then ask yourself: why, if the Democrat-controlled legislature can override Republicans and do whatever it wants are we still just a hair above junk bond status?
5. The governor’s office can only hurt us
The Illinois General Assembly will aid, abet, and empower Pritzker. They’ll tax too much so they can spend even more. We’ll still be broke. Nothing will change. The masses who vote but don’t pay taxes will not be appeased. Instead, they will demand even more because they were promised the ranch.
The legislature will run around Rauner. We’ll get four more years of the same.
Perhaps we should dispense with the governor’s office altogether and let Madigan and his legislature finish us off. Whether Rauner or Pritzker wins this race, that’s what’s going to happen anyway.
1. Berg, Austin. “Why Your Property Tax Bill Is So High, and How to Fix It.” Illinois Policy. August 2, 2018. https://www.illinoispolicy.org/why-your-property-tax-bill-is-so-high-and-how-to-fix-it/, retrieved August 13, 2018.
2. “Accomplishment.” Bruce Rauner. https://www.brucerauner.com/accomplishments/, retrieved August 31, 2018.
3. “$1.2 billion deficit in budget, Ilinois lawmakers praised as balanced.” WQAD 8. August 22, 2018. https://wqad.com/2018/08/22/1-2-billion-deficit-in-budget-illinois-lawmakers-praised-as-balanced/, retrieved August 31, 2018.
4. Korecki, Natasha. “Illinois Republicans help override Rauner’s veto, sealing budget deal.” Politico. July 6, 2017. https://www.politico.com/story/2017/07/06/republicans-override-illinois-governor-240276, retrieved August 31, 2018.