Thousands of people are converging on Springfield today to urge Springfield legislators to reject Governor Private Equity’s plan of austerity for working people and favors to the state’s most wealthy.
For years many of us have focused on the pension battle.
It was a fight to protect pension rights. The fight for our pension rights was both a reality and metaphor.
It was never just about pensions. It was never just about us.
There was the reality that cutting public pension benefits would throw thousands of retired public workers into poverty.
However, the plan to gut pensions was a metaphor for a policy belief: That the state of Illinois could cut its way out of its financial mess when the solution was raising revenue.
Our critics accused us of promoting higher taxes that would drive business out of Illinois and hurt the state’s economy.
An odd accusation, given the current sorry state of the Illinois economy under the present low-tax-on-the rich, low-spending-on–social services policy.
I write low-tax-on-the-rich policy because Illinois is a very high tax state when it comes to taxes on working people: User fees, red light cameras, sales taxes, property taxes. These are all regressive taxes that place the heaviest burden on those who can least afford it.
Add to this the corruption tax, the cost of doing business in the pay-to-play world of Chicago and Illinois. It is the tax that goes into the pockets of the friends of Rauner, Rahm and Madigan and not into the state and city treasury.
A third ingredient was the use of our pensions as a way to camouflage tax increases.
Writes Ralph Martire of the Center of Budget and Tax Accountability: “Raising taxes always scares politicos, no matter how rational or needed the increase would be. So decision makers consistently chose a third, irresponsible path: using the pension systems like a credit card, diverting revenue that should have funded the normal cost of retirement benefits to instead fund current services.”
“Now that we know “the Illinois Constitution means what it says, the only viable and constitutional solution going forward is replacing the current back-loaded repayment schedule with a longer, level dollar amortization that permits payment of all retirement benefits when due, increases the funded ratio to a point that’s considered healthy, and is affordable so that bond rating agencies have confidence payments will be made.
“And Illinois still must raise taxes so it finally has the means to sustain core services without irresponsibly borrowing to pay for them.”