CHICAGO, IL -- As the Illinois Supreme Court deliberates on the pension issue -- whether a state law which cuts benefits can take effect despite language to the contrary in the Illinois Constitution -- we can consider what Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability told the Illinois League of Women Voters at an issues conference on March 7.
Illinois is not broke, he said. To meet pension obligations "all we have to do is refinance the debt and flatten it out."
He continued, "it's a revenue problem." The tax cuts which went into effect in 2016 benefited the rich, he said. Illinois needs to rework its tax policies to support the quality of life the state has traditionally offered, he said.
Both Martire and John Bouman, president of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law attacked Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget proposal. It's "disastrous" and "not evidence based," Bouman said. It's not a reform budget and won't fix the state's problems, he said.
People affected need to develop a strong opposition, Bouman said. A group called the Responsible Budget Coalition has formed, he said, to oppose it.
Tom Corfman, assistant managing editor of Crain's Chicago Business, predicted an overtime session in the Illinois General Assembly to deal with the budget.
Illinois is actually a low tax state, he said. "People don't connect the taxes they pay with services. We need a tax increase and voters will accept it if done rationally."
Bouman said a "grand bargain" is needed to fix the fiscal problems in Illinois.
Martire said a sales tax expansion to include consumer services, a tax on retirement income of $50,000 or more, and refinancing the pension debt would cure the fiscal problems in Illinois.
Will that happen in a grand bargain? Unlikely but stay tuned.
-- Elaine Hopkins