Opinion

Stewart: Tax increases, budget and school funding

State Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Freeport
State Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Freeport

During the past few weeks much has occurred in the General Assembly, and it has been covered by the news media from many different points of view.

However, the fact remains that a massive, permanent tax hike was shoved down the throats of the working Illinoisans, their families and small business owners. The personal income tax rate increased from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent, which is a 32 percent increase and the largest permanent income tax increase in state history. The corporate income tax rate increased from 5.25 percent to 7 percent.

In case any of you were wondering I voted NO on the tax increase.   

According to the Daily Herald, a few examples are that this tax increase will cost a single person who earns $34,000 a year an additional $382 a year; a family of three making $75,000 a year would pay an additional $822 a year. Though some of our neighboring states have higher graduated income tax rates, our overall tax burden – which includes property taxes, sales taxes and income taxes – ranks among the highest in the country, with property taxes being the highest in the country.

The budget that was passed did nothing to reform how our state operates, fails to reduce property taxes, overhaul our uncompetitive workers’ compensation system or address our $130 billion pension debt. Some claim this was a “balanced” budget. It was not, as it fails to address the $15 billion we owe our current vendors doing business with the state, unless of course you include borrowing money to reduce the backlog and reducing pension payments this year with the liability, debt and interest shifted to next year and once again kicking the can down the road.

Oh, and did I mention that hidden in the budget was an increase in the gasoline tax of up to 5 cents per gallon?

Look, we had an incredible opportunity to come together and a find a bipartisan compromise on a budget and reforms that could put our state back on the right track. But almost like clockwork, Speaker Madigan walked away from negotiations even after significant progress had been made. The result is a bad deal for families and businesses and a bad deal for the future of our state.

The budget bill that was passed was also booby trapped, as it holds school funding hostage, and thus our work is not yet done as the General Assembly is now awaiting action on SB1. This means if we don’t take action soon, schools may not start on time. SB1 was passed May 31 and is still held up in the Senate on a procedural move and will not be sent to Gov. Rauner until it is resolved.

Under SB1 and SB6, there is an additional $778 million invested in K-12 education. Chicago Public Schools will receive $495 million of that $778 million, which is 64 percent of the new money for education though they have only 19 percent of the students in Illinois. Once again, a bailout of Chicago schools at the expense of all the rest of us. $221 million of the money goes to Chicago Public Schools pensions, even though CPS skipped pension payments for 11 years. Though there are many parts of this bill that have merit, I will not support sending your money to Chicago.

Under “Our Plan,” SB 1 vs. HB4069/SB1124, the schools in the 89th District will get more money. In fact, more than $1.1 million more would go to our local school districts instead of sending your hard earned dollars elsewhere. Here is the additional money a few of the school districts in the 89th District would get under our plan: Freeport School District $692,175; West Carroll $86,490; Pearl City $40,668; Forreston $57,742; Winnebago $50,492; and Dakota $32,995.

Yes, I am extremely disappointed in where this is headed, but I remain committed to working to make Illinois competitive, strong and a great place to live. This is a great state, and our citizens make it that way, and we will be prosperous. But as Jon Huntsman, Jr. stated, “But economic recovery must be earned. And it will be earned by entrepreneurs and it will be earned by small businesses”.

Let’s make sure we make reforms so that can happen, instead of taxing everyone to death!

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com  and use the contact form to send me an e-mail.

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