A failing state

A failing state

The public's instincts are right on the money about the state of the state.

As Democratic and Republican legislators try to hammer out a budget and economic reform package in Springfield, it would be helpful if they took into consideration the dramatic change state residents have indicated is necessary to right our flagging ship of state.

A new poll, which was conducted by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates on behalf of the free-market-based Illinois Policy Institutes, shows the depth of concern — and contempt — people have for the way Illinois has been run over the past 20 years.

The results are in no way surprising, even though they are revealing. They are in fact consistent with previous public opinion polls conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

The people are sending a message. The question is whether members of the Illinois House are listening or, if they are listening, they care about public opinion.

What's striking is the consistency of public attitudes about the political status quo in Illinois. Those politicians in Springfield who categorically reject Gov. Bruce Rauner's claim that the state needs structural reforms to boost its economic climate are at odds with the overwhelming public mood.

The poll, which was conducted from Feb. 28 to March 1, surveyed 600 likely voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus four points.

Here's the important message the public is sending to Springfield — it is very unhappy and wants dramatic change.

The poll said 81 percent of respondents believe Illinois is on the wrong track compared with 11 percent who believe the state is headed in the right direction. Eight percent said they had no opinion.

Almost as overwhelming was the response to the statement that state lawmakers should pass major structural reforms before passing any tax increase. Seventy-nine percent of respondents agreed with that statement compared with 14 percent who disagreed. Seven percent either were unsure how to respond or made no response.

How much clearer can it get that the public is on board with the argument that this state cannot — and ought not — tax its way out of its current effectively bankrupt state?

Indeed, poll respondents indicated that they've pretty much had their fill of taxation.

Substantial majorities indicated that they believe the states taxes are too high (60 percent), property taxes are too high (70 percent) and the state spends too much money (57 percent).

Those attitudes are at odds with the prevailing opinion among legislators, who reflexively spend more, can't abide the idea of reducing spending or automatically turn to tax hikes to address shortfalls.

A recent example of that approach came in January 2011, when legislators, expressing support for the idea of paying the state's unpaid bills, increased the state income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent (a 66 percent increase) without entertaining any serious reductions in spending.

Although the increased income that was generated helped to meet state obligations, this clear attempt by legislators and Gov. Pat Quinn to tax their way out of financial problems failed miserably.

In fact, Illinois' financial woes are far worse now than they were then.

They are so bad that legislators insist that higher taxes must be part of the solution. At the same time, Gov. Rauner is equally adamant that Illinois needs to take steps to improve the state's economic climate if it ever hopes to generate the natural revenue growth driven by economic expansion.

But will legislative Democrats agree to give the governor enough so that he and legislative Republicans can achieve the compromise that's become known as the "grand bargain," a multi-bill package that covers everything from tax to school finance reform and workers' compensation to the consolidation of units of local government.

Judging by the poll conducted for IPI, the public wants to smash the failed status quo and embrace the kind of changes needed to return our sorry state back to respectability.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion


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catsrule wrote on March 08, 2017 at 6:03 pm

A push poll designed by the billionaire funded and discredited IPI to provide a misleading result and generalization in support of the Rauner agenda. What the polling results omit as it pertains to "reforms" is Illinoisans largely support prevailing wage laws and the right of public workers to bargain collectively over wages, benefits and working conditions. They also overwhelmingly support the adoption of a fairer, more progressive income tax structure. Its very hard to take the IPI seriously when it is spending unlimited sums of money throughout Illinois to advertise a proposal that would "balance the budget without taking a dime more from taxpayers". As at least 3 former Republican Governors have pointed out, the deficit will require both cuts and tax increases to avoid unacceptable damage to lawfully required public services. OTOH, Rauner's refusal to propose a balanced budget per Article VIII, Section 2 of the IL Constitution, part of a deliberate plan to damage public higher education and social services as part of an effort to create a wedge issue to facilitate destruction of organized labor, is costing IL taxpayers millions in additional interest due to resultant credit downgrades. Rauner has also refused to pay vendors who provided social services under contract, all part of the same effort and agenda for which he has no mandate.

Anonymous71 wrote on March 10, 2017 at 8:03 am

The article states "Although the increased income that was generated helped to meet state obligations, this clear attempt by legislators and Gov. Pat Quinn to tax their way out of financial problems failed miserably." and concludes "In fact, Illinois' financial woes are far worse now than they were then."

What an outright lie. The states' financial woes are far worse now because Rauner rolled back the small tax increase that was helping Illinois meet its obligations. Had the tax increase or even part of it been left in place, Illinois would be in a better financial position, there would not be a flight from the state, and businesses would value the promising outlook.  Rauner has accomplished nothing as Governor.