By: Mark Glennon

In a strong signal that crossed party lines, Illinoisans voted by a margin of 55.1% to 44.1% against a constitutional amendment that would have allowed for progressive tax increases.

Illinoisans know the state faces a massive budget hole. What do they want instead of higher taxes?

We don’t know, but we know what they should want: reforms.

Below are some of the larger reforms to pursue we have written about. Some are for the state and some are for our towns and cities because our fiscal crisis is an overlapping, consolidated matter. Most would save money directly, though some would reduce revenue, but, taken together, they would serve the goal that all Illinoisans should share: returning Illinois to fiscal stability and competitive levels of services and taxes.

  1. Real pension reform. Our 112-page paper details our comprehensive approach to reducing annual pension costs. It alone would provide about $4 billion in annual savings – more than the revenue supposedly raised by the progressive tax. A state constitutional amendment is essential.
  2. End free retiree health insurance. Nearly 75 percent of Illinois state employees also receive free health insurance in retirement. Our reform plan would provide $1 billion in annual savings going forward.
  3. End the estate tax. Revenue from the tax is negligible and its only real impact is encouraging flight from Illinois, further eroding the tax base.
  4. Authorize Chapter 9 bankruptcy for municipalities. Illinois should give municipalities that have impossible debt loads the chance for a fresh start by authorizing the option of a reorganization under the United States Bankruptcy Code, as many other states have done.
  5. Consolidate local governments. With nearly 7,000 local units of government, many of which are duplicative and overlapping, Illinois has by far the largest number in the nation.
  6. Enact a harsh cost-benefit analysis on renewable energy programs that are costing billions.
  7. Slash all unfunded mandates imposed by state government on local units of government.
  8. Reconstitute or bankrupt the Chicago Public School district.
  9. Eliminate social justice goals from pension and other public investing, and instead focus solely on maximizing returns.
  10. Eliminate the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund’s subsidized savings account.
  11. Force tough, independent review of local school boards that don’t negotiate contracts properly.
  12. Reform Illinois’ rigged prevailing wage law.
  13. End securitized bond offerings. Chicago and several other municipalities have been transferring full ownership of future revenues to secure current borrowings. That amounts to a sale of body parts, providing short term cash but dooming municipalities to an asset-less future.
  14. Roll-back Illinois’ collective bargaining rules. As currently written, collective bargaining rules mandated by the state for itself and its municipalities mean essentially that public labor unions always win. Good faith, reasonable negotiations are impossible.
  15. Properly use Treasury funds. Make better use of the $18.6 billion sitting with state Treasurer’s office. From a cash management perspective, holding $12 to $16 billion indefinitely, invested short term for minimal returns, makes no sense.
  16. Cut pay, enact layoffs and furloughs. Illinois state workers are the 4th-highest paid in the nation, adjusted for cost-of-living.

This is not an exhaustive list. A number of other reforms, small and large, are viable. There is no shortage of worthy alternatives to higher taxes.

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Chris Johnson
15 days ago

Have KPMG or one of the other accounting firms complete the review of the welfare and benefits roles. This process was started when Gov. Quinn was in office and in the first couple of weeks there were over 19,000+.. yes NINETEEN THOUSAND that were either dead or did not live in the state. This process would have saved MILLIONS in inappropriate payments, but it was stopped by AFSCME and was not completed. Just making sure that the payments go to the people it is supposed to would go a LONG way.

Susan
18 days ago

TIF reform suggested standards:

1. Taxpayers allowed a reasonable method to prevent rubberstamp 12-year TIF lifespan extension (from 23 years out to 35 years).

2. Present- value of future promised tax revenue stream due to begin at Year 23 nust be shown to exceed present value costs to taxpayers of hosting and subsidizing TIF projects.

3. Mandatory Clawback provisions. Meaningful clawback provisions would attach to property, making developer profits more difficult to achieve before taxpayers have reached breakeven.

Curious Karl
18 days ago

This is great, and I hope at least 3 of these items become reality.

Rick
19 days ago

Maybe an Illinois residency requirement for government sector pensioners to receive their pension checks. Cops, teachers, firemen, govt service union members often take off to Florida the minute they retire, then we have to send those checks to Florida, bleeding the Illinois economy.

Also class action lawsuits aimed at actuaries and bond raters for manipulating the very instruments they are responsible to fiduciary.

Thirdly honest bond rating for a change.

bob
18 days ago
Reply to  Rick

Hell no. After you retire you should not be chained to any one place. People have been retiring to warmer climates forever.

Aaron
17 days ago
Reply to  bob

Just tax retirement income as Illinois income like business owners who live in another state.

The Truth Hurts
17 days ago
Reply to  Aaron

You can’t tax pension income once they leave the state. The state of residence is entitled to tax that income not the state where the pension was earned. You would need to change the pension source act of 1996 to accomplish what you suggest.

Poor Taxpayer
19 days ago

Spending cuts will NEVER happen.
Talk is Cheap, Raising taxes is just what will happen.
What ever the worst possible way of doing something is how Illinois does it.
Just look at the history.

David
20 days ago

Why dont the boneheads that run the state take a look at Texas,Florida,maybe Tennessee and try to institute some of their policies.Everyone is flocking to those states yet Illinois does exactly the opposite of those other syates.Hey JB,u think u can run people out of here any faster-complete and utter idiots!

SUE
19 days ago
Reply to  David

THEY ARE NOT INTERESTED CAUSE THOSE STATES DON’T STEAL-TAX THE PEOPLE TO DEATH

Defund Democraps
18 days ago
Reply to  David

Same thing is happening federally. People vote blue but move to red states .

Patrick J Sharpe
20 days ago

#5 Consolidate local governments…and I don’t mean the 1,400 Township units. The township IS LOCAL government and it should be strengthen by adding all the smaller government units to it.

Susan
20 days ago

Part III argument for inclusion of TIF reform (high on) your list: TIF cheerleaders are right sbout one thing: zero new real estate development would occur in Illinois without subsidies and incentives. Why? Because Illinois property tax rates range from.200% to 500% of almost every other State’s property tax rate. That means that Illinois property is a sinkhole of declining value rather than a store of future value as is the case nearly everywhere in America. With meaningful TIF reform, a level playing field can be established for future contributory development. No development? So be it. There shall be no… Read more »

anonymous
20 days ago

Most people have to figure out how to have a future after work. Illinois reaches into the bank accounts of those that pay taxes and feels it is fair that the citizens then pay for the government lazy people to and their retirement.

Flash413
20 days ago
Reply to  anonymous

You also get to pay their lavish retirements for an extra ten years as they are entitled for you to pay their full retirement when they attain about age 56. Teaching nine months a year is far more demanding than what you do for a living so quit your whining and dig deeper into your meager retirement fund. And don’t forget that 3% annual raise.

nixit
20 days ago

lol totally forgot about IMRF Voluntary Additional Contributions account. My sentiment from four years ago still stands:

I disagree. It should be open to all taxpayers. Apparently IMRF has unlocked the secret formula for wealth accumulation. Just like those real estate infomercial guys with speedboats and mansions. I want in!

https://wirepoints.org/the-joke-is-on-illinois-taxpayers-dallas-and-imrf-pensioner-savings-accounts-compared-wp-original/

Last edited 20 days ago by nixit
NB-Chicago
20 days ago
Reply to  nixit

OMG!! I truely am a 2nd class illinoisan.

Tom Paine's Ghost
20 days ago

Enacting any of the items on this list would spell the end of the IL Democrat Party. Their masters at SEIU, AFSCME, IFT and CTU would devour them and elect more pliant “Democrats” faster than you can say Ken Dunkin.

Joey Zamboni
20 days ago

IL…

The plantation of entitlements…

Susan
20 days ago

Part II argument for inclusion of TIF reform (high on) your list: Not only is TIF a straightforward transfer of tax money and property value from disenfranchised voters (often outside municipalities which are empowered to create/administer TIF) to benefit of political class insiders, But, The numbers don’t add up. Calculate present value of “promised” future cashflow of property tax of 35-year-old properties, which cannot be collected unt 35 years from TIF inception. Compare and cotrast that hoped-for (annuity) value to present value dollars invested+ cost burden to current taxpayers to suopply legally mandated social service provision to TIF freeriders...annually for… Read more »

LessonLearned
20 days ago

Go ahead and wait some more for Illinois Dems to do the right thing. The smart residents are done waiting and packing their bags.

NoHope4Illinois
20 days ago

So many things that can be done to mitigate if not solve the fiscal problem – and none of it requires higher taxes.

Pritzker signaled to taxpayers that he was taking them for chumps when he didn’t stop the unearned and unwarranted pay increase for state unions in June.

The best thing the legislature can do now for Illinois is to remand Pritzkers emergency executive powers immediately!!!

Last edited 20 days ago by NoHope4Illinois
Goodgulf Greyteeth
20 days ago

The Medicaid Industrial Complex in Illinois is a morass of mismanagement, waste, political patronage and fraud.

I suspect that if the average Illinois taxpayer learned just what “aid to the most vulnerable” has turned into, they’d be digging around in their garage looking for a pitchfork, while lighting a torch, and punching Governor Tax Cheat’s address into their GPS.

The Department of Human Services’ ineptitude as the principal purveyor of Democrat’s “free stuff for votes” promises makes IDES look like a model of government efficiency.

Joey Zamboni
20 days ago

I have a special needs step daughter & it’s almost criminal the way they are treated…

Not to mention the mountain of paperwork my poor wife must negotiate to get her the meager benefits…

Susan
20 days ago

TIF reform should be added to list.

TIF artificially distorts school funding formula, allowing high-value property regions(which suppress taxable EAV through TIF) to beggar-thy-neighbor.

Furthermore, and most burdensome to taxpayers, TIF engenders 35 years of enormous new tax costs for existing property owners by creating new free-rider student enrollment and need for more police/fire/road services.

Riverbender
20 days ago
Reply to  Susan

Absolutely. In my corner of Illinois assorted TIF, Edge Credit and other assorted incentive/giveaways were handed out to more or less create a warehouse world. Next on the agenda a new firehouse was needed and naturally put demands on the police department.
Where does it ever end?

Susan
20 days ago
Reply to  Riverbender

it never ends…until.individuals like you and me and everyone we talk to who complains about taxes without spending a little time to understanding the root of the problem drags our lazy asses to city council meetings and school board meetings,
and we all start combing through budgets and consent agendae for violations of law (surprisingly common), and relentlessly pursue legal remedies in our own self defense.

NB-Chicago
20 days ago

Open up state & municipal services to be competively bid by private sector companies

20 days ago

I’m disappointed this list has so little to say about The Blob, the bloated government education industry monster. Not only is it a breathtaking sink of money, it has utterly failed in its mission.

Fed up neighbor
20 days ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

Magic question, is there anybody smart enough or willing to take on this reform in Springfield?

Goodgulf Greyteeth
19 days ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

I suspect that the first widespread, “Oh, really, are you kidding me?!!” moment among the disenchanted public will occur when the Democratic legislature, and the Democratic Senate, and our Democratic Tax Cheat Governor all get together in Springfield in November and – wait for it –

Cut nothing-n-raise taxes.

Judy
20 days ago
Reply to  Kevin Killion

I went from manufacturing management to higher education (HR Benefits Mgr) due to factor closing. The waste in state universities is unbelievable. I was in shock my first 3 months on the job. The games the unions (we had 11 unions) and administration play are ridiculous. It was much better when there was ONE Board of Governor’s and ONE Board of Regent’s and they had a paid staff (attorney, negotiator, etc) with responsibilities and consequences. The BOG handled 5 state universities from collective bargaining to litigation and University administrators were responsible to the BOG & BOR. Now they pretty much… Read more »

James
20 days ago
Reply to  Judy

I think (nearly?) all government budgets have that spend-it-or-lose-it mentality. Many, many eons ago I was in the U. S. Army stationed in Germany and had a managerial job where I was told that very message by the Army district’s comptroller, somewhat to my disgust and an eye-opener for a young guy as well. The core implied message is that governmental entities want to expand rather than stay stagnant or contract. That brings more chances for promotion.

NB-Chicago
20 days ago
Reply to  Judy

Hire Mitch Daniels as head of higher ed in illinois, apparently he’s done a fantastic job cutting all the rediculous layers of administration at Univ of Indiana. Will never happen, but one can dream…

20 days ago

Can’t upload the photo, but it’s Paddy Bauler. Use that one in your post! It will take more than a lost election to get reform. The bond market will enforce some discipline. If they can’t access it, more discipline. First move will be to cut services where max pain is felt, and to raise taxes/fees. Get ready for at least a 1% hike in personal taxes. n To tax the rich, they will raise transfer taxes and fees again…cloud tax not going away, maybe a rise in the gas/sales tax. By the way, glad COVID is cured and CPS kids… Read more »

Douglas
20 days ago

Respectfully, I’d like to add more taxes in key areas. 1) A 95% tax on the position of governor, when that governor’s wealth exceeds 15 million. Whomever holds the position of governor and places his/her wealth in tax free offshore areas also gets a 5% tax on total wealth inside Illinois. 2) A 25% tax on all public unions. Clearly they have lots of money to spare with the millions they throw at IL politicians and lobbyists. 3) A 50% tax on any public funded pension for a politician that collects more than one pension. Representative Robert Rita is going… Read more »

NoHope4Illinois
20 days ago
Reply to  Douglas

President Trump only takes $1 in salary, and Pritzker, Durbin, and Duckworth hate him for it.

NB-Chicago
20 days ago
Reply to  Douglas

From 2 days ago on wgn w anna & mazzochi– hypocrite jb only paid $118,000 state taxes in 2019 but can donate $56 million presumably from his tax sheltered offshore family accounts to try and pass fair tax? WGN Radio – Chicago: State Representative Deanne Mazzochi explains why the graduated income tax amendment failed: ‘For many years people have had very good reasons to not trust Illinois government with more of their money’.
https://wgnradio.com/anna-davlantes/state-representative-deanne-mazzochi-explains-why-the-graduated-income-tax-amendment-failed-for-many-years-people-have-had-very-good-reasons-to-not-trust-illinois-government-with-more-of-their-mone/