Eye On Illinois: Senate Dems seek to improve on Pritzker’s savings plan

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Despite being generally open to the concept of taxes paying for important government services, it’s hard to get fully on board with Senate Democrats’ proposal to go above and beyond Gov. JB Pritzker’s campaign-year $1 billion savings pitch.

The Democrats said Friday that they want to put $1.8 billion in “mostly temporary tax relief proposals” into the fiscal 2023 budget, according to Capitol News Illinois. Pritzker rolled out his ideas in February. The lawmakers shared their ideas two months later with about a week left in an abbreviated General Assembly session calendar.

Some of the relief depends on spending habits. A 10-day sales tax holiday on school supplies and certain clothing items applies only to people who shop for those goods on those days. That might be more of a gift to the retail community than shoppers, although the beneficiaries of increased traffic are likely to be larger corporations, generally better equipped to capitalize on such promotions than locally owned small businesses.

Suspending the 1% grocery sales tax for six months gives a degree of relief to virtually everyone, but will it be enough to offset the steadily rising costs of a supermarket sweep? People who watch receipts closely may notice the difference, but if Democrats are looking to score political points, they’ll have to build a strong message around this campaign and also hope no one notices when the tax comes back half a year later.

The story is the same as relates to holding off a planned gas tax increase. We’ve all seen pump prices escalate, but the Democrats who implemented the gas tax increase schedule now seem to say, “We used to want this to cost you more but right now seems like a bad time so it won’t until later.” Is that a winning message?

Like Pritzker’s plan, the Democrats’ proposal is short on certain details.

“As we were going through the budgeting process, additional revenues had been made available,” said state Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, adding only that money was “identified from all sources” based on “a rebounding economy.”

Even accepting that, a $1.8 billion relief plan is a tough sell for a state still trying to get on solid financial footing, stabilize its public pension funds, satisfy debt in the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, complete dozens of infrastructure projects, hire enough teachers and cops, and address the devastating failures of a child protection system. Those are just a few ideas off the top, to say nothing of ongoing uncertainty due to a war in Ukraine.

Still, the Democrats’ plan has some good, sustainable ideas that deserve attention outside election-year gimmickry, like teacher and first responder tax credits. If only they’d been proposed in February.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

via Shaw Local

April 5, 2022 at 06:58AM

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