To the Editor:
Illinois families deserve leadership with the guts to address the state’s structural deficit — and provide real relief to the thousands of constituents who are suffering under Gov. Rauner’s indefensible refusal to pass a responsible budget.
We got the usual rhetoric from Rauner in his most recent budget address — while he continues to stall a viable budget for this fiscal year, at tremendous harm to Illinois residents who are being denied critical services that range from college tuition support to child care subsidies for poor working mothers. But we also must be crystal clear about the deep differences between real solutions that truly protect our working families and the most vulnerable, versus gimmicks promoted by special interest groups and the political operatives they bankroll.
While the governor continues to dig in his heels to push anti-worker policies in his ‘turnaround agenda’, the reality is that the scheme to strip away vital labor protections predates his election by many years. That scheme has intensified with the financial backing of groups like the We Mean Business PAC (bankrolled by Rauner and his political allies) and Stand For Children, which Rauner helped bring to Illinois and which cuts its proposals from the agenda of ALEC, the right-wing corporate bill mill for polluters, privatizers, and profiteers.
There is a responsible path forward to tackle Illinois’ budget impasse, chronic structural deficit and the state crisis in education funding.
First, as I wrote in this newspaper last April, legislators should not have allowed the temporary tax increase to expire without putting in place a long-term revenue fix anchored in fairness — and based on individuals’ ability to pay, not special interests’ schemes to dodge paying their fair share by shouldering ordinary residents with the bulk of the state’s revenue burden. We should restore the temporary increase — whose rollback blew a multi-billion dollar hole in the state’s budget thatbenefitted wealthy elites like Rauner the most — while we work to create a more truly and systematically fair tax system.
Second, we should move immediately to slam the door on lucrative corporate loopholes throughlegislation like HB 4300, which could bring more than $3 billion into state coffers, according to the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.
Finally, we’ve got to reject the fake rhetoric of pension ‘reform’ — code language from powerful political players like the We Mean Business PAC for hacking away at the hard-earned retirement security of public workers. Unfortunately, these kinds of fake ‘reforms’ continue to be backed by elected officials like 26th District State Rep. Christian Mitchell, who’s voted repeatedly to support Rauner-esque objectives to cut public workers pensions and support school privatizers like his donors at Stand For Children at the expense of neighborhood public schools and retirees.
That also means rejecting legislation like HB 4272, the deceptively named “Fund Education First” bill which, like its predecessor SB16, does nothing to address the appalling structural deficit in state education funding and instead imposes a huge increase in pension payments on the backs of workers and cash strapped school districts. That approach has drawn widespread opposition, with a House resolution opposing any such cost shift winning overwhelming bipartisan support from 62 state representatives — among them those like Eddie Jackson of East St. Louis, who represent districts that Mitchell claims his pension cost shift scheme would help.
Illinois legislators have the responsibility to break Rauner’s stalemate by actually moving revenue-positive, financially fair bills like HB 4300 to a vote — and rejecting fake solutions that benefit a narrow corporate agenda at the expense of the rest of us.
The alternative is to continue to starve our public schools, strangle the futures of our college students, undercut our small businesses and undermine the wellbeing of our most needy residents — who ironically, shoulder the greatest burden proportionally of our meager public revenue stream. And that’s an alternative we cannot and must not accept.