State lawmakers decided not to pass any major tax increases or
spending cuts this session, preferring instead to confront the state's
massive deficit next year (or so they say). They didn't leave Springfield without approving any
new revenue, however. Among the one-time payments passed
was a tax amnesty bill that grants delinquent taxpayers an opportunity to pay
back-taxes without penalty. Former Paul Simon Public Policy Institute director Mike
Lawrence didn't like the idea when the General Assembly tried it seven years ago -- and he likes it even less now. In his latest State Journal-Register column, he notes the "long-term fiscal and moral implications" and cites research showing that tax amnesty "imperil[s] future revenues by devaluing compliance."
needs to pay its bills, so it's hard to turn down the estimated $250 million the plan could generate next year. But it begs the
question: Of the revenue proposals that were seriously debated in
Springfield, why didn't House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) call
a bill (SB 44) to raise the state's cigarette tax by $1 per pack? It's incredibly popular, it's recurring, and it would raise roughly the same amount of resources in FY 2011 as the tax amnesty bill. Also, it would deliver real public health benefits.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported
last week that the measure "could still be revisited this summer or in
the regular fall session." We'll see. With this
legislative body, such projectins always deserve a big grain of salt.