At first, we thought it was a story from The Onion, the satirical newspaper with headlines like, “Obama Promoted To Senior Vice President Of American Affairs” or “Gun Goes Off During Life’s Third Act.” But the story was real, even if the headline suggested otherwise: “Illinois protesters call for tax increase.”
Some 15,000 public-sector union members and social-services advocates — apparently unencumbered by job duties — gathered at the Capitol in Springfield in the middle of a work week April 22 to demand a 33 percent increase in the state income tax in order to prevent budget cuts.
“Raise our taxes,” they chanted. “Where’s the cash?” The cash, they know, is in the pockets of their neighbors, but for how long? Illinois faces a $13 billion budget deficit, resulting from years of bipartisan fiscal mismanagement that also helped create the nation’s worst under-funded pension liability — not to mention the sense of entitlement on display April 22.
That lamentable rally helps further define the disconnect between public-sector unions and a private sector they seek to plunder, even amid a feeble economic recovery that has thus far been jobless everywhere but among government institutions.
The solution to the budget crisis in Illinois is not a tax increase that further harms families coping with pay cuts, furloughs and shorter work weeks. Rather, the Legislature should look to those families as an example and live within its means. In some cases, this will require painful budget cuts, but so be it; there is no easy way out of a mess that took years to create.
The crisis also should serve as a wake-up call for Illinois’ public-sector unions, which long have happily collaborated with shameless pols in running up unsupportable financial obligations. The salad days are over, the caterwauling of protesters notwithstanding.
If, on the other hand, legislators bow to the pressure of AFSCME, the SEIU, the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, we look forward to the general election in November, when union-backed liberals are left to somehow insist they are not cowering tools of a ravenous political machine.
Read more on the Outlook and Perspective pages of CSI's Walworth County Sunday e-edition on pages 8A and 9A. and add your comments below.