By BLAINE WILHOUR, BRAD HALBROOK, DAVID McSWEENEY, DARREN BAILEY, CHRIS MILLER, ALLEN SKILLICORN, DAN CAULKINS and JOHN CABELLO
Transportation is a vital part of the Illinois economy.
When it comes to interstate highways, Illinois has the third most interstates in the nation. New York has 31 interstates, while California and Texas both have 25. Illinois comes in third with 24 interstates. There is no question that Illinois, with its location in the center of the country, is a transportation hub in the Midwest.
Funding our roads and infrastructure is important not just to the Illinois economy, but in the national economy as well. Funding transportation needs, though, should be handled responsibly.
Unfortunately, Illinois' track record on responsible spending is abysmal.
Does anyone really trust Springfield politicians to put real priorities over political priorities? We certainly do not.
The capital plan the House and the Senate approved at the end of the legislative session has very little specifics on where the money is going, while simultaneously doubling the gas tax on poor and middle-class families and raising the license plate renewal by $50 on Illinois drivers.
Illinois taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent, and legislators who voted for these tax hikes without specifically knowing how the money would be allocated have done a disservice to these taxpayers.
It is especially discouraging to see many Republican leaders not only vote for these tax increases, but then promote false narratives that are constantly perpetuated by the tax-and-spend Democrats in order to excuse their votes.
To hear some Republican leaders talk about how we have to raise taxes because Illinois taxpayers don't currently pay enough to cover our spending programs is shocking. These are Democrat talking points, and they are embarrassing. We hear them say, "We haven't raised the gas tax since 1990." What they fail to mention is that Illinois taxpayers are already burdened with a gas tax that is top 10 in the nation.
We are willing to work alongside the Republican leaders as we tackle tough issues in the future, but these kinds of policies were exactly what our voters sent us to Springfield to oppose.
Illinois taxpayers deserve political leadership that is willing to find solutions that deal with the real underlying issues.
Watching as our party blindly accepts that raising taxes is the only way forward is an injustice to the taxpayers and constituents that sent us here, and we won't be any part of it.
As fiscally responsible Republicans, we should be talking about why the state needs such a higher percentage of our money to deal with infrastructure. Why does it cost so much more per mile to build roads and bridges in Illinois compared to many other states?
Like so often is the case, in Illinois, we suffer under heavy mandates and an adversarial regulatory environment that drives costs upward.
We have onerous prevailing wage rates, and our taxpayers potentially pay up to five times what taxpayers in neighboring Indiana pay for workers' compensation.
We should be talking about how Illinois taxpayers are getting robbed by Springfield politicians on behalf of the powerful special interests. Why should more taxpayer dollars be spent to prop up special interests?
We should be demanding that Springfield prove they can be trusted to deal with the big cost drivers in government. That is the only way to ensure that we are maximizing taxpayer investments.
Middle-class taxpayers are being forced to pay more because Springfield politicians will not deal with the tough issues.
The Republican Party is supposed to be the party of fiscal responsibility. If infrastructure is indeed the priority everyone says that it is — then why are we not budgeting for it every year instead of coming around every decade with a massive spending proposal that is funded by borrowing and tax increases?
The truth is we can't budget for this every year because the state is saddled with debt from unpaid bills, excessive mandates, job-killing regulations, crushing pension and Medicaid burdens, and record-setting numbers of government taxing bodies. Once we deal with these issues, then we will be able to properly get our funding priorities in line.
Instead, we hear career politicians opining about how courageous they are to take more of our hard-earned money to pay for their mismanagement and out-of-control spending. We are told that raising taxes is "a tough but necessary vote."
Raising taxes in Illinois is not courageous. It is just business as usual in Illinois.
Select Republicans may have curried temporary favor with the Springfield special interests with this vote, but it has come at the high cost of losing credibility with the middle-class taxpayers.
Speaker Madigan, Gov. Pritzker and the special interests can chalk up a big win by getting some Republican leaders to recite their talking points and vote for another tax increase without specific and measurable reforms.
Once again, Democrats feast like kings while "Republicans" are happy begging for the crumbs and the persecuted Illinois taxpayers take yet another uppercut to the gut.
This op-ed was submitted by Republican state Reps Blaine Wilhour of Effingham, Brad Halbrook of Shelbyville, David McSweeney of Barrington Hills, Darren Bailey of Xenia, Chris Miller of Oakland, Allen Skillicorn of Crystal Lake, Dan Caulkins of Decatur and John Cabello of Machesney Park.