While there may not be one single act that has led to Illinois leading the Midwest in job loss, and having the nation’s worst budget deficit or our record high tax rate, what is clear is that there have been a multitude of bad decisions and failures in leadership that have culminated in the state’s poor fiscal shape.
The simple fact is, we face very real, serious challenges that can’t be solved with the politics of the past. The time for excuses and half measures has ended. We need bold, innovative solutions at this very moment because Illinois families are being punished by the failures of state government resulting in them paying more and getting less.
Three years ago, Democrats – namely Governor Pat Quinn– promised us that when they raised our taxes they would use that money to pay our backlog of bills. Three years later, the 67 percent tax increase has chased thousands of jobs out of Illinois, but our unpaid bills still remain at over $7 billion.
What’s the real impact of a billion dollar deficit and the unpaid bills? Social service agencies don’t receive funding and they reduce their workload, jobs are lost, and taxpayers pay late payments which totaled $318 million last year alone.
The impact of this mismanagement isn’t just about numbers, it’s affecting people and Illinois’ future. We were told that the tax increase would allow for greater investments in education and safety net programs for those who most need our help. Yet now we face a budget that seeks deep cuts to those very same programs.
The state of our state’s budget is impacting the very fabric of our communities. The poor fiscal policy in Springfield is a major contributing factor to employers like Caterpillar who have chosen to expand outside of Illinois and Office Max who chose to leave the state entirely. And it’s not just employers who are leaving Illinois, it’s our neighbors. From July 2012 to July 2013, Illinois lost 40,000 residents, the highest in the nation.
We face big problems, but the good news is there are solutions if we elect people with bold ideas who are not committed to the status quo in Springfield.
The lynchpin to Illinois’ economic recovery is not rooted in a complex algorithm; instead, it is found in something families do each day – balancing the budget.
Indiana does it. Wisconsin does it. It’s time for Illinois to follow the lead of our neighbors and balance our budget. Only with a balanced budget can we begin to reprioritize our state’s investments, ensure our children have the resources they need to compete globally, make certain that those truly need of help are receiving the very best available and make greater investments in our communities.
Unfortunately, politicians like Governor Quinn have overseen unbalanced budget after unbalanced budget. These actions ignored our constitutional requirement to have a balanced budget and catapulted Illinois into the position of having the nation’s worst budget deficit.
We must put a stop this cycle of weak leadership and poor decisions that penalize citizens.
As Governor Quinn unveils his budget address, it is my sincere hope that the numbers are real, the budget assumptions are sound and spending decisions are responsible and reflect the priorities of taxpayers. And most importantly, that he proposes a balanced budget.
But if this budget is built on gimmicks, false assumptions and bad math, then it should be immediately rejected. We simply cannot afford any more bad decisions.
Illinois is craving results that positively and meaningfully impact people’s lives. That begins right now with having an honestly balanced budget.
Tom Cross is the Illinois State Representative for the 97th District and the Republican nominee for state treasurer.