Letter to the Editor: A Temporary Tax Increase? Really?
Was the temporary tax increase, Public Act 096-1496, intended to be a permanent tax increase all along? During 2014 when talk in Springfield (and legislative action) turned to making the tax increase permanent, it became fundamentally important to answer that question.
Why? Because the taxpayers in Illinois deserve to know if the legislature and governor approved a temporary tax increase of 67 percent based on sound judgment and the realistic hope of paying off past-due bills, or if the temporary tax increase was a deceptive first step toward a permanent 67 percent tax increase.
If the temporary tax increase was intended to actually be temporary, then during 2010 and 2011 the legislature and governor would have made plans and developed models and projections that showed revenue, expenses and an operating surplus that would lead to resolution of all past-due bills. According to Gov. Pat Quinn, on Jan. 12, 2011, “We have some temporary tax increases that are designed to pay our bills, get Illinois back on fiscal sound footing and make sure that our state has a strong economy.” House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie stated, “… remember the point of this income tax increase is not to expand programs, not to do brand new things in Illinois state government, it is only intended to pay our old bills and deal with the structural deficit.”
To answer the above question, I filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Office of the Governor and the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget. Both of these requests were initially denied either in whole or in part, because: 1) “… compliance with your narrowed request, as drafted, would place an undue burden on the Governor’s Office … ; and 2) OMB could not find any responsive records.” I filed appeals with the Office of the Attorney General, and my requests were still denied in whole, or in part, or I was provided with information that was nonresponsive to my questions. I filed a subsequent request with the Assistant Clerk of the House. This request was denied because “the House is not in possession of the records you seek.” Although this request was denied, the FOIA officer referred me to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.
The CGFA was directed to “… develop a 3-year budget forecast for the State, including opportunities and threats concerning anticipated revenues and expenditures, with an appropriate level of detail.” The initial report of the CGFA has been available to guide the legislature and governor since April 2011. Table 5 from the CGFA 3-Year Budget Forecast, FY 2012 – FY 2014, outlines budget options for consideration by the legislature and governor. The most important scenarios are outlined below using the actual CGFA scenario descriptions.
Scenario 1: Enacted Budget – July 2010, then flat spending; projected cumulative surplus $2.1 billion by the end of FY 2014.
Scenario 5: Revised Budget Feb. 2011, then flat spending; projected cumulative surplus $4.9 billion by the end of FY 2014.
Scenario 8: Revised Budget – Feb. 2011, then 4% Spending Growth (Typical Spending); projected cumulative deficit $3.1 billion by the end of FY 2014.
Did the legislature and governor adopt reasonable budgets outlined in Scenario 1 or Scenario 5 that would lead to budget surpluses? Or did they adopt budgets that reflect “Typical Spending” as outlined in Scenario 8? Based on information published by the Comptroller’s Office the past-due balance at the end of August 2014 is $3.1 billion. The legislature and governor took the 67 percent tax increase, continued “typical spending” and the result is a continuing balance of past-due bills. If the legislature and governor had simply held expense budgets flat (as proposed in Scenarios 1 and 5) the promise of a budget surplus could have been achieved.
Was the temporary tax increase, Public Act 096-1496, intended to be a permanent tax increase all along? It is apparent the legislature and governor did nothing to control spending in Illinois government, and the end result was predictable. Was the temporary tax increase a deceptive first step toward a permanent 67 percent tax increase? Probably. There is an election coming up on Nov. 4. Please keep this deception in mind when you go to the polls.
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