By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
With state lawmakers stuck in the crossfire of partisan politics, Ralph Matire, executive director of the Center for Tax & Budget Accountability warned that if the budget is not passed by the Illinois General Assembly soon, the deficit will balloon to more than $20 billion.
Matire pointed an accusatory finger at Governor Bruce Rauner for failing to pass two budgets for political reasons.
“The State of Illinois has cut the college budget by more than 70 percent since 2000.” He said that will cripple economic growth in the state, coupled with a potential $20 billion deficit which will close more businesses and social service agencies.
Agreeing with Matire, who spoke at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and on WVON’s “Bob Shaw” show, was Senator Donne Trotter (D-17) who told the Chicago Crusader being without a state budget for nearly 19-months is causing a major crisis in Illinois. The Senate is introducing its third budget on February 28.
Governor Rauner has vetoed two budgets because neither contained his campaign promises of tort reform, workmen’s compensation reform, and term limits.
“Many businesses are hanging and others have closed as a consequence of our not paying our debt,” said Trotter. “We know that domestic violence centers have closed or are at risk of closing. Seniors worry about whether they will get their Meals On Wheels and schools are having massive cutbacks all because of our irresponsibility of not passing a budget, but Governor Rauner is “standing in the doorway” of progress, charged Trotter.
Reminded that Rauner has vowed no more “business as usual,” Trotter said, “It is hypocritical and it’s ludicrous because that is not making us more accountable. In his address, he quoted Abraham Lincoln saying we have to change to go forward.
“He took Lincoln’s quote out of context,” said Trotter. “He (Lincoln) was saying we need to get away from slavery not to making this world more democratic across the board. He’s been doing the opposite,” Trotter said of Rauner. “He should have quoted Lincoln saying how a government’s place is to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.”
“Rauner has his own view of the world and that is the view most of us don’t have. He is talking about putting a hold on property taxes but that is one of the ways that we fund government, especially local governments. To take that right from them to satisfy his wealthy friends is ludicrous.”
“We are looking at not only the indebtedness that we’re in … the $11.9 billion we owe to our providers, but there is also $111 billion in unfunded pension payments we have out there and other things we have to pay to keep this state moving forward,” said Trotter.
“We have a series of taxes that have been suggested, like sugar tax, tax on some foods and some services which are regressive, but all taxes are regressive. We are talking about the personal income tax and corporate tax on businesses and some of his non-budgetary things.”
Trotter said one of the ideas is to put a two-year freeze on property taxes to help local governments deal with some procurement issues “that people have where there is just too much bureaucracy involved,” adding the proposed budget is a comprehensive piece of legislation.
Confirming Matire’s deficit warnings, Trotter said, “He is absolutely correct. By the next election in 2018, we will be $24 billion in debt if we do nothing. It doesn’t get any better.”
Trotter said Rauner “is not breaking our back by vetoing their budgets but rather “There is some gutlessness on behalf of those legislators who continually vote against their constituents to appease Rauner or because they are afraid of him.”
The senator cited the state’s constitution as having three prongs to government, the executive branch, the legislative and the judicial. “There are some Republicans and some Democrats who for their own self-aggrandizement are not voting in the interest of those who put them into office. There is enough blame on all sides, but it begins with the executive branch responsible for setting the direction we are supposed to go in.”
When asked what can people do, Trotter said, “remain vigilant, loud and you can also vote people out of office…. We need to keep the pressure on.”
the pressure on.”