Sober Approach to Budget Needed

Published June 9, 2005

Dear Editor:

Mike Lawrence was correct to criticize Gov. Rod Blagojevich for a “flimflam” budget that will put huge burdens on future taxpayers (“Budget in fiscal disasters for Blagojevich’s destructive promises,” Commentary, June 8), but he was wrong to also criticize the governor for standing by his promise not to increase sales or income taxes.

The problem in Illinois is not that taxes are too low. It is that spending is too high.

In 1998 Illinois’ total budget was about $38 billion. The Fiscal 2006 budget, passed less than two weeks ago, is more than $54 billion. That’s a nearly 50 percent increase in spending in eight years, a much larger increase than price inflation, growth of the economy, or increases in family income.

Taxes were increased under Governors Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar, and George Ryan, and the budget is still a shambles. If tax increases solved budget problems, Illinois never would have gotten into this mess.

The irony is that Blagojevich identified the problem shortly after taking office in 2003, when he complained that Illinois lawmakers spend money “like drunken sailors.”

Until lawmakers take a sober approach to their job, no amount of tax increases will put the state on firmer financial footing.

Steve Stanek
McHenry, IL
[email protected]

Steve Stanek ([email protected]) is the author of Heartland Policy Study No. 107, “Illinois’ Public Pension Crisis,” released on May 24, 2005. He is also managing editor of a monthly publication addressing budget and tax policy issues across the country.