Illinois took its medicine, but remains under the weather.
Critics of Gov. Pat Quinn's corporate and personal income tax increases last week took advantage of their one-year anniversary to reiterate their disagreement and call for repeal.
"A year ago, a policy choice was made to implement a $7 billion tax hike with the promise that it would help solve Illinois' fiscal problems. The tax hike was a failure, and the people of Illinois know it," said John Tillman, head of the free-market-oriented Illinois Policy Institute.
That assertion, of course, depends on one's perspective.
The goal of any tax increase is to generate revenue, and, in that sense, the 66 percent increase in the personal income tax (from 3 percent to 5 percent) and the 46 percent increase in the corporate income tax (from 4.8 percent to 7 percent) worked. After all, $7 billion a year in new revenue is a lot of money.
But in terms of addressing Illinois' financial problems, the tax increase has been a nonstarter, even by the standard set by Gov. Quinn.
"We have some temporary tax increases that are designed to pay our bills, get Illinois back on fiscal sound footing and make sure that our state has a strong economy," Quinn said in defending the tax hikes passed during last January's post-election, lame-duck session.
But billions of dollar in bills remain unpaid, Illinois' economy remains pathetically weak and the state's financial picture is nightmarish. All the tax hike did was salve a spending problem, allowing legislators to continue to avoid facing tough issues as they run for re-election in November.
Republicans, in a purely theatrical move, have called for repeal of the tax increases. That isn't going to happen because Gov. Quinn and House and Senate Democrats control the legislative process, and it shouldn't happen given the multiplicity of responsibilities the state has embraced.
Indeed, given our elected officials' reluctance to restructure state government, it's far more likely that there will be another post-election tax increase than any tax reduction.
Advocates of the tax increase maintain it was necessary because the state has a "structural" deficit. That's because the state has committed itself to spending more money than it has coming in.
Rather than restructure state government and establish priorities, a difficult process that would enrage affected constituencies, the state makes ends meet by not paying its bills, which last year's tax increases was supposed to eliminate.
It's a farcical process that undermines the credibility of state government, does not meet public needs and is downright cruel to vendors who do business with state government and the organizations that provide state-supported services.
But that's where Illinois is right now, roughly in the same shape it was a year ago when Quinn and legislators passed the the largest tax increase in history as a cure for all Illinois' ills.