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Let the Buyer Beware: Response to the Governor's Budget Address

By Sen. Bill Brady

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[February 23, 2008]  BLOOMINGTON -- If you didn't hear the governor's budget speech on Wednesday, here's what you missed: more borrowing, higher business taxes, more spending, selling off state assets and more debt.

Of course, he didn't talk about those things. There was enough smoke and mirrors in the Capitol Wednesday to rival the shows Elvis used to stage in Vegas.

But that's the bottom line of the plan he glossed over in a 22-minute speech. He didn't talk details, he didn't talk reality, and he didn't address the major financial challenges we as a state face.

The best thing I can say about his speech is that he admitted his proposal to raise taxes on business by more than $6 billion last year was a mistake. Finally. After all, it got no support in the General Assembly last year. Not one vote.

But I don't think he has really learned the lesson that higher taxes on business mean fewer jobs, diminished state revenues and less financial security for our families.

Yes, the governor proposed a 20 percent tax cut for Illinois businesses. Sounds good, and I support helping businesses in this struggling economy by cutting taxes. But that's only half of his story for business. His one-time savings of $300 million is eclipsed by the $667 million in permanent new taxes he wants to heap on business in the new fiscal term. Over two years, business would see $300 million in income tax savings and $1.9 billion in new taxes. Overall, that's classic bait-and-switch, and it's a bad deal for Illinois businesses, workers and families.

He also jumped on the economic stimulus package put forward by President Bush. The governor would give one-time $300 tax credits to children. One-time tax rebates may be a good idea; long-term tax relief when it's affordable is a better idea. But how can we afford the $900 million cost of this new program when his administration has $1.7 billion in unpaid bills so far this year? -- and that's the number from his Democratic comptroller. Again, of course, he didn't answer that question but wants a fast infusion of one-time money through the "securitization" of the state's annual tobacco settlement receipts.

Instead of using nearly a half-billion dollars in budget cuts to reduce spending, he's pushing ahead with a $2 billion health care increase. He wants to sell off part of the state lottery for quick cash to finance a much-needed capital improvements program and to pad the budget. That is again an idea soundly rejected last year, when it got only six votes.

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He wants to raid special funds to the tune of $300 million so he can borrow $3.8 billion. He wants to take a holiday from the state's pension obligations again and issue $16 billion in pension obligation bonds, saving him from the responsibility of putting an extra $725 million into our pension system, the most underfunded system in the country. Again, it's quick cash from the state's top quick-change artist.

With his plan Wednesday, he has proposed quadrupling the state's debt since he took office. When he was inaugurated in 2003, the state had $9 billion in debt. Today, it's $23 billion, and it would grow to $38 billion with this latest easy-money scheme.

If his Democratic leaders, Mike Madigan and Emil Jones, push this budget through, you might was well write out an IOU to your children, because it's the next generation and the one after that are going to be paying the bills.

Just remember, the share of our state's total debt is $8,800 for each man, woman and child in Illinois. And that's on the first day of this new budget debate, not the last.

My Republican colleagues and I will work in a spirit of cooperation to resolve Illinois' tough fiscal challenges and help Illinois families. No one wants a repeat of the gridlock, acrimony and argument of last year. But we have different priorities.

We believe in fiscal responsibility, and we will face reality. Illinois must quit spending money we don't have. We must stop new programs we can't afford. We must tame monstrous Medicaid spending. We don't need more government by gimmick; we need leadership. Tough challenges require tough decisions, not get-rich-quick infomercials.

[Text from file sent on behalf of Sen. Bill Brady by Citizens for Bill Brady]

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