Taxpayers end up losers in battle of state and local government
Herald-News editorial May 18, 2012 11:10PM
Updated: July 1, 2012 11:42AM
As the saying goes, “No man’s life, liberty or property is safe when the Legislature is in session.”
Well, brace yourselves because the political winds are aligning to make that old warning hold true — and make your wallets bleed.
Illinois’ budget mess — made even more bleak by an underfunded pension system teetering on the brink — doesn’t seem to have a solution that doesn’t have people reaching deeper into their pockets.
Whether it’s smokers, gamblers, state workers, property owners or all of the above, lawmakers appear poised to shift the burden of fixing their years of fiscal bungling onto the backs of regular folks. Whatever the answer, you can be sure it will end in a cash grab.
There are a lot of proposals out there, ranging from sharp Medicaid cutbacks to shifting the cost of funding teacher pensions to local school districts to slashing education funds by a couple hundred million.
A recent idea from the creative mind of House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) would swipe for the state the local governments’ share of what’s called the corporate personal property replacement tax — using the money to help pay for teacher pensions.
Madigan seems to have suggested it as a way to pressure town leaders to not oppose the pension funding shift to school districts — keep quiet or we’ll pass something that will cost your towns more.
For Joliet, Madigan’s cunning move would mean $2.2 million less per year. City Manager Thomas Thanas last week said the plan would amount to “basically hijacking” money that local governments rely on to pay their bills.
Municipal officials across the state are gearing up for a fight. They should, but the question is whether Madigan is really serious about taking the tax money or is just using it as a ploy.
For taxpayers, it really doesn’t make a difference. Whether the state pays or local government does, it still comes from their pockets.