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PI Original
by Adam Doster
Wed Aug 11, 2010

Gaming Out The Brady Budget Plan

If GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady won't release a comprehensive budget plan, we thought we'd try to do it for him. The result? There's no way he can balance Illinois' budget in one year.

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Tue Aug 10, 2010

The Quote Of The Day

"I’d consider anything that actually brings more revenues to the state."

That's GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady talking to the State Journal-Register Friday about the state's sales tax holiday ... and curiously forgetting his vehement no tax hike pledge.

In all seriousness, Brady's scheme -- to lower the state’s sales tax permanently if Illinois makes money during its August holiday -- is not a good one. The rationale for the sales tax holiday (flawed as it may be) is that the government will take in more revenue because shoppers looking for discount school supplies will simultaneously purchase additional items that aren't included in the holiday. Lowering the rate across the board eliminates that benefit while starving the state of needed tax dollars. If Brady was serious about making Illinois' tax system more efficient and fair, he would champion legislation to expand the sales tax to discretionary consumer services, which now makes up roughly 44 percent of all transactions statewide. He could then use some of the additional revenue to lower the sales tax rate on goods like food and clothes that poor and working people can't live without.

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Fri Aug 6, 2010

Getting Up To Speed On TIFs

For years, Chicago-based reporters not named Joravsky avoided writing about the Daley administration's tax increment financing (TIF) system, largely out of fear that the issue was too arcane for regular readers to understand. That's changed over the past two years, when some enterprising reporters ably described how the mayor spent taxpayer dollars to prop up thriving communities while worsening the city's recession-induced budget problems. Now, even major papers like the Tribune are penning editorials calling on the mayor to raid this year's TIF surplus and use the cash to plug budget gaps.

Community groups and academics are also trying to get voters up to speed about how the mayor's use of the development tool affects the taxes they pay and the services they receive. The University of Illinois-Chicago's School of Urban Planning has launched a new, user-friendly website that allows residents to research TIF districts in their neighborhood. And on Saturday, the Organization of the Northeast is holding a TIF training session at Uptown's Truman College. You can find more information about the event at ONE's website.

PI Original
by Adam Doster
Thu Aug 5, 2010

Daley's Defensive TIF Stance

At yesterday's State of the City address, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley sounded like a politician who had no intention of ceding control over his tax increment financing empire to ease Chicago's budget woes.

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Wed Aug 4, 2010

Sun-Times: Illinois Needs A "Substantial" Tax Hike

Be sure to read the Chicago Sun-Times' lead editorial this morning on Illinois' budget deficit, in which the paper comes out in favor of a "substantial" income tax increase and echoes themes you've read on our site for months:

Even with massive budget cuts, substantial government restructuring and pension reform, there is no way to balance the state budget -- and maintain quality schools, social supports and other vital services -- without a major influx of new revenue. lllinois' 3 percent income tax rate, you'll recall, is among the lowest in the country. The overall tax burden for Illinois residents, as a percentage of personal income, also is among the lowest in the country.

The editors also lament how Gov. Pat Quinn "backed himself into a corner" when he promised to veto any tax increase larger than 1 percent. By dropping his emphasis on fundamental tax reform and offering "a measly compromise" this past March, Quinn left himself with few weapons to tackle what's turned out to be a massive crisis.

PI Original
by Adam Doster
Tue Aug 3, 2010

Illinois' Income Tax Rate In Context

For those just getting caught up on Illinois' income tax debate, here are a few basic facts about the issue.

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Mon Aug 2, 2010

Protecting Illinois' Budget ... And Bond Rating

While the Quinn campaign's tax hike kerfuffle garnered more coverage last week, the contents of another Bloomberg story published on Friday were equally interesting. According to reporter Darrell Preston, the Quinn administration is telling overseas debt buyers that Illinois does plan to raise its income tax to 5 percent in January. And those rumors come as a big relief to the bond rating agencies, who have warned for months that the state will keep paying unnecessarily high interest rates on the bonds it issues unless lawmakers take forceful action to begin closing the $13 billion deficit. "They’re going to have to show they’re doing something," a money manager told Bloomberg, "or their bonds will fall off a cliff."

Meanwhile, the Quinn campaign launched its own "Brady Budget Clock," which tracks the "number of days since Sen. [Bill] Brady has been the Republican nominee for Governor, during which he has campaigned without any coherent plan to fix our state budget." As of this afternoon, it's at 150 days and counting ...