By John Ruberry
Five months after being sworn in as governor of Illinois, Democrat JB Pritzker has gotten pretty much everything he asked for as candidate, which isn’t surprising as Democrats enjoy supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.
Running the show in the General Assembly is House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), a master gerrymanderer, who is also the chairman of the state Democratic Party. He has occupied the former post for 34 of the last 36 years and he’s the midwife of Illinois’ considerable financial woes. And he is possibly still the most powerful politician in the state.
Illinois is essentially bankrupt because of its massive underfunded public pension systems. That’s because pensions have been used as a slush fund by Boss Madigan and his cronies. Pension plans have been abused in many ways, including “pension spiking,” which are late-in-career pay raises which boosts retirement pay. Controls were placed on spiking in 2005, but they were eliminated this year.
The Illinois budget for fiscal 2020 is $40 billion. But despite a constitutional requirement, one that is unenforceable unfortunately, it is believed to be, despite the claims of Democrats, to be unbalanced by $1.9 billion.
Outside of the budget–I’ll get back to fiscal matters in a bit–last week Pritzker signed into law an extreme expansion for abortion, which essentially legalized third trimester abortion. While still banned by federal law, Illinois is poised to have legal partial birth abortion in place in the event that ban is lifted.
“Let the word go forth today from this place that if you believe in standing up for women’s fundamental rights, Illinois is a beacon of hope in the heart of this nation,” Pritzker beamed as he signed the abortion legislation.
Twenty years ago Bill Clinton said that “abortion should not only be safe and legal, it should be rare.”
Pritzker campaigned on eliminating Illinois’ constitutional requirement that its income tax–don’t forget, some states have no income tax at all–be a flat one. Early in the spring legislative session the General Assembly passed an amendment that voters will decide on next year allowing graduated rates. Money from those new rates won’t be seen for two years, so other taxes are being hiked, including adding a dollar to the state cigarette tax and doubling the state gasoline tax, which are welcome moves for communities bordering ILL-inois. More revenue is expected for expanded casino gambling and legalization of recreational marijuana.
As I’ve mentioned many times here, Illinois has been losing population for five straight years. There is no reason to believe that Priztker can stop the bleeding in Madiganstan. Illinoisans already had the highest tax burden in the nation before his election. Property tax rates in Illinois are the second highest of the states, only New Jersey, another basketcase, is worse.
Despite Illinois’ financial mess, legislators were still able to find cash for pickleball courts for a wealthy Chicago suburb and a dog park at a Chicago high school.
Decline and fall.
John Ruberry regularly blogs from Illinois at Marathon Pundit.