In a lengthy editorial Saturday, the Tribune editorial board laid out their own flawed plan to solve the state budget crisis over two years without a tax increase.
In a lengthy editorial Saturday, the Tribune editorial board laid out their own plan to solve the state budget crisis over two years without a tax increase. Not surprisingly, there are a few problems with their various proposals:
- Across-the-board cuts: The Tribune endorses the Civic Federation's proposal to roll back state spending to 2007 levels (while excluding funding for Medicaid and General State Aid for education). But the editorial fails to mention that this would require severe cuts to social services. In response to the Civic Fed's plan, the Sun-Times editorial board wrote: "If the federation really thinks that's the way to go, it should spell out and stand behind each and every painful cut they'd like to see." The same goes for the Tribune, of course. Without providing such details, they're distancing their readers from the reality of the problems we face in this state.
- Medicaid: In advocating for Medicaid reforms, the Tribune suggests that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is wholly to blame for what they refer to as an "illicit expansion of eligibility" in the program. This is a common Republican talking point. But as we -- and the Taxpayer Action Board -- have noted, the largest expansions of Medicaid in Illinois actually took place under the administration of Republican Gov. George Ryan. Meanwhile, Blagojevich's unilateral expansion of FamilyCare was quickly halted and has had a neglible effect on the state's finances. Medicaid has grown steadily in Illinois because an increasing number of poor people lack private health insurance. If the Tribune is going to cast blame for these particular policy decisions -- which, in our opinion, represent good public policy -- they need to look beyond Blago.
- State pensions: The Tribune suggests that it's possible to not only cut pension benefits for new employees (the so-called "two-tiered" system), but also for current state workers, as the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago argued in a report last November. Indeed, the paper asserts that altering current pension contracts "appear[s] to be constitutional." But while the Civic Committee attempted to make that case, they also acknowledged that the courts might not agree (on page 14 of their report). The Tribune doesn't include that caveat, all while claiming that such changes could save a whopping $2.1 billion per year -- a figure that, as Capitol Fax notes, is nowhere to be found in the Civic Committee's materials. Not only is the target misguided, the math seems very shaky here.
- Revenue sharing: The paper further proposes saving $600 million each year by halving the amount of income tax revenue that the state shares with local governments. Of course, such a plan would force already-struggling cities and towns to raise regressive sales tax and property tax rates -- just as Chicago and Cook County have been doing for years as their share of state revenue has dwindled.
Human service providers, Medicaid enrollees, state workers, students, and other average Illinoisans. Those are the folks who are going to be hurt by the cuts endorsed by the Tribune. But while the paper goes so far as to cite proposals to sell "surplus real estate," it says nary a word about the various tax loopholes that benefit corporations and allow the state's millionaires to shield much of their income from the state. Imagine that.