Another Koch Acolyte Is Responsible for Illinois Economic Disaster

* The following is an opinion column by R Muse *

Any American that is inclined toward games of chance, even buying a state’s lottery ticket, would be thrilled beyond belief to win a big jackpot. Likewise, any filthy rich financier who bought his way into politics for monetary gain would be thrilled to be governor and give themselves a jackpot of three-quarters of a million dollars every year. If, by chance that lottery winner happens to live in Illinois, they face the very real prospect of not collecting on their winnings and it is in great part because an extremely wealthy financier is governor and gave himself three-quarters of a million dollar tax cut every year.

Like the broken state of Kansas, the state of Illinois is facing billions in budget deficits and besides a Republican governor giving outrageous tax cuts to the rich and corporations, the state is facing the second year without a budget. The state’s schools are suffering, road and transportation projects are dead-in-the-water, social service contracts are ending, lottery winners are not getting paid, and localities’ shares of taxes from casinos, gasoline sales and video gambling in bars and restaurants are not being “shared” by the “broke” state.

The problem in Illinois, as usual, is a Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, who banked $61 million in 2013 alone and is one of a small group of multi-millionaire speculators that directly benefitted from enormously lower state tax rates for the rich and corporations. The tax cuts were enacted by none other than Koch-ALEC mouthpiece and Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.

True to his Koch brother, American Legislative Exchange Council cohort’s demands, in his first state of the state address as governor in 2015, Rauner laid out an agenda straight out of the ALEC template factory. Although he was not successful in slashing the state’s minimum wage, Rauner enacted an ALEC “right-to-work” order to cripple the state’s unions, slashed social services and education to the bone, and put an end to a temporary 1.25 percent income tax surcharge that was put in place after Republicans crashed the economy in 2008. Now the state has not had a “real” budget for the second straight year and one of the sticking points is Rauner’s demand that legislators put an abrupt end to collective bargaining and forget any kind of tax increase to save education, roads, social services etc. And why wouldn’t he resist signing a budget to save the state’s finances? A tax increase would mean he would lose out on that precious $750,000 tax cut every year.

The State of Illinois currently is facing a roughly $9 billion budget deficit and $159 billion in I.O.U.s for this year, and it is due to Rauner’s tax cuts for corporations that dropped from 9.5 percent to 7.75 percent last year. Additionally, Rauner handed out $100 million in special tax breaks for some of the largest corporations doing business in Illinois; those tax cuts were paid for, in part, by Rauner’s $26 million social service cuts affecting the state’s neediest residents.

Those tax cuts for corporations and the richest Illinois residents amounted to a 25 percent reduction and ended the efforts by the previous governor to pay down the state’s ballooning debt while preserving education, road repair, and social services’ funding.

According to an Illinois state policy watchdog group, Reboot Illinois, Rauner’s tax cuts for corporations and the rich produced precisely what Kansas Governor Sam Brownback did for his broke state: “From FY 2014…through FY 2016 (the first full year under lower taxes), state income tax revenue  declined by 35 percent.” And, it is noteworthy that those tax cuts, besides killing revenue, have not produced the promised job creation as Illinois is currently 40th in the nation, barely above Kansas that sits near the bottom.

Democrats in the Illinois legislature, including House Speaker Michael Madigan, wanted to raise the state’s income tax back up to where it was before Rauner cut it drastically, and he proposed a special tax on millionaires like Californians enacted in 2012 to pay down debt and save the state’s economy. Like in California, that “special tax” would have avoided billions in vital budget cuts to roads, schools and social services and paid down debt; but that approach just doesn’t comport with Rauner, ALEC and the Koch brothers’ libertarian scheme to rape and pillage government and working families.

As of Thursday evening, there were murmurings of a “stopgap” budget deal to, hopefully, allow Illinois’ public schools to open for the next school year. However, there will be little if any funding for roads and social services because Rauner is not signing any budget that doesn’t end collective bargaining agreements as per ALEC and the Koch brothers’ anti-union crusade. To say that Rauner came into office intent on declaring war on working families and the poor to give more tax breaks to corporations and the rich is an understatement, but at least he has not yet slashed the state’s minimum wage or banned unions by way of eliminating collective bargaining for public and private sector employees.

One would remind Americans that Illinois, like Kansas, Wisconsin, Louisiana and several other Republican-governed states, portends precisely the condition the nation would face if Republicans controlled the legislative and executive branches, but they wouldn’t pay any heed. Let’s face it: Americans have seen the damage Republican administrations wreak adhering to the economic policies of ALEC and the Kochs for some time now and like the voters in Illinois, they still vote for Republicans who will not rest until the break the nation like they’ve broken Kansas and now Illinois. Americans who vote for Republicans are not only ignorant of what’s in their own best interests; they are the epitome of abject stupidity.