August 13, 2008

Illinois: Shortest Special Session Ever?

Yesterday the Illinois legislature held what was scheduled to be a one-day special legislative session on education funding. The goal, in theory, was to come up with new money for pay for the state's chronically-underfunded education system.

But, as it happened, the session lasted all of 20 minutes in the state House, and not much longer in the Senate. And all the legislature agreed on was that they probably shouldn't get a pay raise at this time.

Why the sham special session? The short answer: Governor Rod Blagojevich called the session with very clear ideas about which solutions are permissible-- and which solutions are forbidden. The former camp includes privatizing the state's lottery; the latter camp includes, well, just about every sensible tax reform one might wish to enact. Blagojevich has maintained in the past, and reiterated in advance of the special session, that increasing the state's low, flat-rate, loophole-ridden income tax is not an option he will accept. This is especially absurd given that, as some brave observers have noted, lawmakers could make the Illinois income tax fairer and more sustainable without increasing tax rates at all.

It's no wonder, then, that state lawmakers see no particular point in holding a special session: if the governor plans to veto any income tax hike, why should lawmakers take the political risk of enacting one?

Check out the weekly updates from the Center on Tax and Budget Accountability for ongoing info on the state's budget crisis.


At 12:11 PM, Anonymous Adam Hughes said...

This is a nice update, but I take exception to one part of your post - at the end when you let the legislature off the hook. One reason they should enact the increase anyway is that it puts the decision to the Governor, not the legislature. Adjourning after 20 minutes sends the message that we know we need to increase revenue but we don't want to be honest with the public about the realities of doing that - ie some people are going to have to pay more in taxes. It doesn't engage the public in the hard choices that are often necessary.

The legislature should have passed the income tax increase/fix, sent it to Blagojevich, and let him explain why that isn't the right solution.

Adam Hughes
OMB Watch
ahughes "at"


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