Americans deserve better than the litany of bad laws that kick in every January. We start every year shaking our heads in disbelief at new laws and regulations that scream legislative abuse and special interest pandering and pose a real danger to those unfamiliar with new infractions and their penalties. As with all bad things in government, my state of Illinois is our role model.
Punishment in Illinois: do we deserve this?
Here in Illinois we are used to laws as obscenely permissive as our spending habits. We are also familiar with draconian punishments for seemingly minor offenses, like a potential felony rap and a $25,000 fine for a third violation of a new cigarette butt law. Big penalties are popular in this state because they help legislators make a name for themselves. They can also bring in lots of money. State residents already had to watch out for Scott’s Law, which can result in a fine of up to $10,000 and a suspended license for approaching emergency vehicles in the wrong manner. The fine for a second construction zone speed limit violation is $1,000.00 and license suspension and the law applies whether or not workers are present during months-long projects.
Illinois is not special and bad laws aren’t limited to crimes and traffic offenses. Some states seem to go out of their way to pass laws that ignore or punish the taxpayers they depend on to keep things funded. California will raise its minimum wage to $9.00 hr. and other states have passed their own new minimums. Harry Reid’s Nevada will join California and Illinois with its decision to pass out driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Not to be outdone, California has also decided they should be permitted to practice law.
While lawmakers have fun seeking the headlines to our detriment, there are laws Americans deserve that will never pass. These laws will not even be suggested in state legislative halls because they solve problems that either violate lawmakers’ pacts with special interests, or put a crimp in the kind of abusive lawmaking so popular in states like Illinois.
Great ideas for laws states will never pass.
1. Public employees will not benefit more than the taxpayers.
Government workers in Illinois and elsewhere like to talk about how much they pay towards their pensions. If they contribute as much as they claim, then they should be satisfied to park that money in the same 401(k) accounts the rest of us rely on instead of depending on taxpayers to provide a standard of living close to what they had while working.
2. Government handouts should be loans.
There shouldn’t be a problem extending unemployment benefits for those looking for work in a down economy but it should be treated as a loan with interest, not a gift. The same goes for other types of social insurance and welfare. If you have your hand out, you should be required to pay the money back.
3. Illegals should be required to register with state governments.
Democrats claim they are chomping at the bit to run background checks as soon as Congress approves amnesty, but no one wants to keep track just yet and the Justice Department frowns on inquiries into immigration status. Why are we extending the benefits of anonymity to illegal immigrants denied our own citizens whose every move is scrutinized by taxing authorities? If we can issue them driver’s licenses and enroll their kids in school, we can put their information in a database. Maybe we can put the NSA on the job.
4. Tax increases should be deducted from state budgets.
Illinois pulled a dirty trick when it retroactively increased the state income tax in 2011, a temporary measure certain to be chiseled in stone well before it expires. For all the pain, the state is no better off. Just like Democrats in Washington, Illinois lawmakers suffer from the delusion that bringing in more money means you can spend more, or at least as much as what you are trying to tax your way out of. If we raise taxes or close loopholes the amount of extra money brought in should be cut from the budget. That’s how you get ahead.
5. Punish the waste of public money.
When tax dollars are wasted or paid out improperly they should be taken out of state budgets until they have been reclaimed, not added as an ongoing cost of doing business.
6. Every level of government and every office should have term limits.
Term limits would eliminate career legislators who refuse to pass good laws Americans deserve while they focus on punishing taxpayers and putting themselves in the spotlight. That would be progress, something we didn’t see much of in 2013, especially here in Illinois.