On July 6th, the Illinois House of Representatives voted to override Gov. Rauner’s veto of the bi-partisan state budget passed by both Illinois chambers earlier this week. That means Illinois finally has a budget for the first time in over two years.
We can breathe a collective sigh of relief. A plan is now in place so our tax dollars will be spent on human services, education, health care and our infratructure. Agencies can anticipate the money they will receive and plan accordingly. This brings a level of stability we have not felt for years. And hopefully, it will avoid our bonds being downgraded to junk status (which would mean we’d have to pay even higher interest rates to the big banks).
It is also good news that Rauner did not win workers compensation reform (which would just leave workers injured on the job with fewer rights and resources) or a property tax freeze (which would leave local counties and municipalities without the ability to generate important revenue for schools and other priorities).
As far as ONE Northside’s priorities:
- From what we’re learning, the budget includes funding for Grow Your Own Teachers and Ceasefire.
- The Renewable Energy Resource Fund was not swept, a cause our environmental justice committee took on. Meaning there is funding to bring solar power to Illinois.
- We are still analyzing the bills, but we think there was an increase for the Personal Needs Allowance for people in nursing facilities, an issue championed by our mental health justice team.
- We can also celebrate that the budget closes three of the corporate tax loopholes we have long fought to close.
This budget brings mixed emotions. It is an austerity budget that includes so many cuts — including slashing funding for state agencies by 5% across the board and 10% cuts to universities — that Illinois will spend about $3 billion less this coming fiscal year than it spent last year. And this is top of cuts year after year for the last decade. The social service organizations that laid off workers and cut services for children, the poor, people with disabilities and the elderly may avoid further layoffs, but most won’t be able to restore services that have already been cut.
The budget was not balanced entirely with cuts. Legislators from both parties accepted what we’ve said for years, that this is a revenue crisis and we need to raise taxes to fund our state services. However, working class people bear the brunt of the tax increase with $4.6 billion in additional revenue coming from an income tax increase on individuals’ wages (going from 3.75% to 4.95%), a meager $460 million coming from an increase to the corporate income tax rate (going from 5.25% to 7%) and $200 million coming from closing three corporate tax loopholes. (The bill we fought for this year, HB4004, would raise $924 million in new revenue by contrast.)
The banks and the rich came out ahead. The state and service agencies have all had to borrow billions in dollars throughout the impasse and that money will be paid back to the banks with interest. The rich have benefitted because Illinois’ continued low tax rates allowed them to avoid paying their fair share towards the prosperity of our state. Finally, the impasse has continued to play into the narrative that government is ineffective, which stregthens the argument for privatization and lower taxes.
ONE Northside and our allies will continue to fight for revenue from corporations and the rich, including the progressive (graduated) income tax, closing corporate tax loopholes and the LaSalle Street Tax on big banks and corporations that purchase futures and commodities. We believe government is our tool to level the playing field and it needs resources to guarantee everyone has what they need to lead a dignified life.
Unfortunately, there is no quick path to victory on our bills to tax corporations and the rich. But we will continue to fight strategically with the hope of building the world we know we need and deserve.