March 01, 2006

Push Back Against No New Tax Pledge

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) is taking a lot of heat politically for taking "the pledge"-- a promise not to hike income or sales taxes if he's reelected this fall. His unwillingness to ask the hard questions about how to fund public services--combined with the raft of new spending proposals included in his budget proposal for the next fiscal year--may mean that the governor has bitten off more then even he can chew.

Blagojevich unveiled his budget last month, and it was filled to the brim with new spending initiatives, including:
- Hiring 1,100 more state employees
- Universal preschool program
- 100 new state police officers
- $15 million for stem cell research

As reported by the Center on Tax and Budget Accountabilty, the fiscal problems facing Illinois are quite serious and go beyond just the issues that lawmakers will face this legislative session. The state faces a structural deficit-- a long-term mismatch between the state's spending needs and its ability to fund them. CTBA notes that Illinois is deeply dependent on debt to fund current services, and is notorious for its inequitable funding of public education. But perhaps most interesting is that the governor is taking enormous heat for taking two of the largest revenue sources (sales and income taxes) off the table. His reluctance to even discuss an income or sales tax increase amidst the enormous pressures facing the state has got the Illinois Black Caucus (a former Blagojevich supporter) calling for a third party candidate to run.

A good decision-maker doesn't take anything "off the table." Anti-tax pledges are poorly informed showboating, not responsible leadership. So it's good to see this ill-advised pledge falling on deaf ears in Illinois--let's hope that others around the country follow in their footsteps and push back against these careless and politically-motivated promises.


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