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Sen. Jacqueline Collins
Earlier this month, I joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers to end two years of uncertainty, instability and damage to our state that have harmed the most vulnerable citizens. I voted to override the governor’s veto and pass a complete, responsible and balanced budget. I want to take this opportunity to talk to you about what that means, now and going forward.
Nobody, anywhere, ever wants their taxes to go up. This was a hard vote, for me and for every member of the General Assembly, including the Republicans who did the responsible thing and crossed party lines to make this a balanced budget. Even with this tax increase, the budget makes $3 billion in cuts, including 10 percent to our state colleges and universities. Such a deeply painful set of measures are only necessary because the fiscal ship of Illinois has been sailing on stormy seas for decades. Governor Rauner has picked the worst time to starve our social safety net, our mental health services, our domestic violence shelters. To support these vulnerable Illinoisans, to save the state from junk bond status and to hold down our rising debt – all things that in the end would mean more burden for taxpayers in the long run – we took action.
A balanced budget is more than just a political talking point. It is a moral statement. It answers the question: What things – and whom – do we consider to be of worth, and what are we willing to do to pay for them? Governor Rauner’s budget proposed $37.3 billion in spending, but included no revenue increase. In other words, he proposed a budget but had no true way to pay for it. The bipartisan plan I supported spends a billion less than the governor’s plan, and $3 billion less than if we continued with no budget in place, as we have been doing since Governor Rauner took office. And it is fully funded. It’s a balanced, honest budget.
The budget passed this month restores a portion of the income tax rate in effect from 2011-2015, and will go from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent for individuals, with a similar increase for corporate taxes. It contains spending cuts of $3 billion in several areas and closes numerous corporate loopholes. The budget will increase funding for K-12 education over FY17 levels by approximately $700 million, relying on a more equitable school funding formula that benefits low-income school districts like CPS.
That is to say, the budget both cuts spending and increases revenues. It does not privilege the rich over the poor, the corporation over the individual, or private sector largesse over real public needs like education.
Even with the increase, our average income tax rate will be less than Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky and Ohio. When held against other states, we are realistically neither a “high tax” nor a “low tax” state. And Illinois still does not tax retirement income or services, as the majority of other states do. We remain one of the few states with a flat tax – meaning a billionaire and a janitor both pay the same rate on state income taxes.
Some far-right ideologues repeatedly have stated that cuts alone could balance the budget. Perhaps they could if we were willing to throw the elderly off of Medicaid, the violent out of prisons, the promising but poor high school graduates out of tuition assistance programs. The majority of discretionary state spending goes to health care, social services, education and public safety. And polling conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute showed, definitively, that Illinoisans are not willing to short any of those crucial services. I think they don’t because they care about their fellow countrymen.
There are still hurdles to jump. School funding, under this plan, is contingent on the adoption of an evidence-based funding model like the one passed by the Senate earlier this summer. Governor Rauner has declared he will veto it, as he vetoed every other portion of this balanced budget, including the tax increase he once said he’d be willing to support.
Now, more than ever, I want to know your thoughts, your concerns, your stories. Please reach out to my office and follow me on Facebook and Twitter to stay informed.
Senator Jacqueline Collins
16th District – Illinois