Illinois’ Budget Depends On ‘Bailout’ And Progressive Income Tax Amendment

ILLINOIS — As members of Congress get back to work, some are looking for another COVID-19 aid package. President Donald Trump said he doesn’t support bailing out what he called “badly run” Democratic cities and states, “whether it’s New York or Illinois.”

The state’s budget also relies on an income tax amendment that voters have yet to decide.

Earlier this year, shortly after the state and the nation were rocked by the pandemic, Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, sent members of Congress a letter requesting more than $41 billion in aid to cover the state’s anticipated financial problems.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, said Illinois should not get a bailout for years of policymakers neglecting the state’s finances before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“No one is going to bail out the structural debt and deficit that Illinois has,” Davis said. “That’s not a pandemic expense, that’s not something that’s caused by the pandemic.”

Messages seeking comment from Davis’ General Election opponent, Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, a Democrat, were not returned.

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, said Illinois’ structural debt is from years of Illinois paying more than it gets back in federal taxes.

“So until that problem is fixed, this mischaracterization of this as a bailout is just way off base,” Foster said.

Foster’s opponent, Rick Laib, a Republican, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Foster said a deal for additional COVID-19 relief may be wrapped in with an end-of-year spending plan to get passed the presidential inauguration in January. He said that would be to avoid making things more turbulent with threats of a government shutdown. Davis said he would support allowing local governments to cover COVID-related costs with money Congress already has approved.

Trump said Democrats in Congress don’t want to make a deal on another aid package before the election to hurt the president politically. He warned against “giving the store away” with a push he said is for $1 trillion in non-COVID-19 related spending.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday it’s up to Congress to “step up.” He said he is “very, very” concerned that social services will be diminished if Congress doesn’t take action.

There would have to be a reckoning between how much the state takes in and how much it spends if Illinois taxpayers reject the proposed graduated income tax this November.

While the U.S. Congress continues to hash out whether to release more COVID-19 relief for states, Illinois’ budget is $5 billion in the red without federal funds that haven’t been approved. Then there’s more than $1 billion more in the budget Democrats passed that banks on a progressive income tax.

Incumbent state Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said taxpayers can send policymakers a message about budget principles.

“Just by simply voting ‘no’ on the progressive income tax,” Wilhour said. “You wanna force a tough conversation on our fiscal situation in Illinois, a conversation we’ve been needing to have for a long, long time, that’s a perfect place to start.”

Wilhour’s Democratic opponent, Dave Seiler, supports a progressive income tax as a way he says on his website would move Illinois “toward fixing the budget.”

State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, supports the progressive tax. But, he said if voters reject it, he’ll support the outcome.

“And I think that the governor then must go back to the drawing board and figure out … everything we can to continue to grow revenue in this state,” Ford said.

Ford does not have an opponent in the General Election.

The Center Square – Greg Bishop

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