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Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Wed Jun 9, 2010

Schakowsky: Conservatives Dooming Deficit Commission

Back in March, we were excited to learn that Illinois' own Rep. Jan Schakowsky would serve as a member of President Obama's 18-member deficit commission, knowing she would add a progressive perspective to the discussion about the nation's long-term debt. Others, however, we're less sanguine about the commission's potential. Because recommendations for revenue increases and spending cuts could only be sent to Congress if 14 of the 18 members reached consensus, some feared that anti-tax conservatives would be unwilling to cooperate.

After just two meetings, that cynicism seems to have been warranted. In an interview with Think Progress yesterday, Schakowsky called the success of the commission “unlikely” because conservatives are refusing to consider any tax hikes, even though combined taxes are at their lowest levels in a half-century. "[Conservatives] give some lip service to ‘everything should be on the table,’" said Schakowsky. "Then, when it actually comes to what kind of revenue can we raise, [they] are closing that door and taking it off the table." Watch it:

PI Original
by Adam Doster
Tue Jun 8, 2010

Chicago Group Wants Intransigent Lawmakers To Pay "Political Price"

Chicago's Organization of the North East is planning a large voter mobilization effort to express their dissatisfaction with Illinois lawmakers for failing to close the state's budget deficit.

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Mon Jun 7, 2010

Tax Amnesty Vs. The Cigarette Tax

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."

Illinois 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.

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Thu Jun 3, 2010

A "Mini-Revolt" On TIF

After months of silence on the issue, it was encouraging to see several Chicago aldermen voice anger in May over the Daley administration's opaque and inequitable use of TIF "porting," in which revenue captured in one tax increment financing district is transferred to projects in an adjacent district. In this week's issue of The Reader, Ben Joravsky describes the 10-member dissent as a "mini-revolt." He also explained why using TIF money for school construction distorts the original intention of the practice:

While fixing or building schools doesn't sound like such a poor use of public money, TIF isn't really intended to pay for projects like schools. In fact, while legal, using TIF to build schools is antithetical to the program. TIF projects are supposed to pay for themselves by subsidizing new development that will fill the coffers with more property taxes. Public schools don't pay property taxes. (And while some schools may help lift surrounding property values, others have been shown to push them lower.)

PI Original
by Adam Doster
Fri May 28, 2010

The Democrats Stumble At The Budget Finish Line

Lawmakers are leaving Springfield, once again, without developing a comprehensive solution to the state's fiscal problems.

PI Original
by Adam Doster
Thu May 27, 2010

Mayor Daley: The Incomprehensible Adviser

Mayor Daley's criticisms of lawmakers at the state and federal level are always widely reported.  His inconsistency and hypocrisy should be part of the story as well.