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A double double standard

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2014

* The Tribune editorialized on two topics today, both of which were directed at Gov. Pat Quinn and one of which was the temporary tax hike

Keep the promise that the income tax hike would be temporary.

This was the second time since mid-April that the Trib addressed this issue

Quinn already is hobbled by his flip-flop attempt to make permanent the supposedly temporary Quinncome tax increases that are set to roll back in January.

I don’t think the governor ever specifically “promised” - in public, anyway - that the tax hike would be temporary. He was always pretty vague on that topic until his budget address. Tons of articles were written over the past few years about how Quinn wouldn’t talk about what should happen with the tax. When he finally decided he was for making it permanent, that was really huge news.

And here’s how Quinn responded to a question about whether the tax hike would stay on the books the day after the tax hike bill passed

“We will deal with this one day at time, one week, one month, one year at a time,” Quinn said then. “I think our job now is to take what was passed last night and carry it out.”

But Bruce Rauner has accused Quinn of breaking his promise, and the Trib has now officially sanctioned that line of attack.

…Adding… The Rauner campaign points to statements Quinn made soon after the bill passed where he called the tax “temporary” several times. But he made no specific promise that the temporary tax wouldn’t be made permanent once it partially expired this coming January. Indeed, he was specifically asked whether he’d support making it permanent that day and that’s when he gave his “We will deal with this one day at a time,” comment from above. Watch the video by clicking here. The question was asked at the about the 15:00 mark.

* The rest of the editorial was about pensions, particularly local pensions. The paper reiterated its demand that Quinn sign the Chicago pension reform bill. This is the third time the paper has made that demand, and it has not opposed a property tax hike

Given the terrible finances of the city’s pension funds, Gov. Pat Quinn has no responsible choice other than to sign the bill, and the aldermen have little choice but to raise taxes. Barring the miraculous appearance of some substitute plan, the likeliest (and unimaginable) alternative is to let city pension funds deteriorate even further — and to send Chicago’s credit ratings even closer to oblivion.

No, we’re not happy with the prospect of higher taxes. But over the years Springfield and Chicago politicians created huge pension obligations that the funds have nowhere near enough money to pay. The consequence for taxpayers is clear. The consequence for the politicians who promised more in pension payments than Chicago could pay is … yet to be determined by voters increasingly stuck with the cost of all the pols’ retirement giveaways to public employees.

* All that despite repeated and emphatic promises by Rahm Emanuel to never raise property taxes to solve the city’s pension problems. From February, 2011

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday ruled out a property tax increase of any size […]

Emanuel’s pledge not to entertain a property tax increase of any size came in response to a question about how he planned to solve the city’s pension crisis.

A bill approved by the Illinois General Assembly over Mayor Daley’s objections would saddle homeowners and businesses with a $550 million property tax increase in 2015 unless pension concessions are negotiated or another new revenue source is found.

During the campaign, Emanuel ruled out raising property taxes that much, which would amount to a 90 percent increase. On Wednesday, he was asked whether he would entertain a property tax increase of any size. His answer was an emphatic no.

Hmm.

* Keep in mind that just about every penny of the income tax increase has been used to make the state’s pension payments. Whatever was said during the time it was passed, taxes were in reality jacked up so the state could responsibly meet its pension obligations. And just as the Tribune has been warning about what could happen to Chicago’s bond ratings if the pension bill isn’t signed into law and taxes aren’t raised, Wall Street pushed Illinois hard to raise taxes to stop its rapid fiscal decline.

So, an income tax hike to make long-neglected pension payments is a bad thing, while a property tax hike to make long-neglected pension payments is an acceptable thing?

And no specific promise of a temporary tax is labeled as a broken promise, while numerous promises never to raise property taxes to make pension payments is jettisoned into a bottomless memory hole?

I’m confused.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


37 Comments
  1. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 12:21 pm:

    It is a bit of challenge to get a handle on a governor without a handle. Or a handler.

    Everyone seems to see a need for something, but not what the other guy is proposing, not at the amount he is proposing it, not when he is proposing it, but yeah - there seems to be a need for something. But not that.

    When the Quinn governorship becomes a Hallmark movie, I recommend “Carrie” star, Sissy Spacek, portray him.


  2. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 12:24 pm:

    The “promise” seems fairly clear whether the words escaped his mouth in public or not.

    The “promise” exists in black and white on the bill he signed with his own hand: 3.75% on January 1, 2015.

    If not an explicit promise, it was at the very least an implicit one.


  3. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 12:24 pm:

    ==I’m confused.==

    That’s life in the funhouse mirror that is the world of the Tribune. Who knows how they think, maybe their brains are fried after all those years of the frat house atmosphere over there.


  4. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 12:25 pm:

    ===The “promise” exists in black and white on the bill he signed with his own hand: 3.75% on January 1, 2015.===

    Do you know how many bills are passed every year with complete or partial sunset dates?


  5. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 12:29 pm:

    ==If not an explicit promise, it was at the very least an implicit one.==

    What? Laws are renewed all the time in Congress and state legislatures all over the country. There is never an “implicit” promise that laws will go away, just that the issue will come up again.


  6. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 12:30 pm:

    And you are correct, Rich. This is definitely a double standard by the Trib.


  7. - Norseman - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 12:30 pm:

    Formerly, with all do respect your definition of promise and my definition of promise are different. If they could have passed that tax increase as a permanent measure, they would have. It was a political necessity, not a promise.


  8. - Dan Johnson - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 12:30 pm:

    I think the promise narrative is completely overblown.

    The GA sunsets laws all the time. Laws are on the books and schedule to expire in 10 years. Constantly. And then the GA can choose what to do.

    This was a temporary four year income tax rate. And now that that rate is ending, the GA has to decide what to do going forward.

    That’s not breaking a promise. That’s just living through the four years of the temporary income tax rates. And now, that’s over. We have to decide what to do for the next four or eight or twelve years.

    The promise was kept. The law that was passed in 2011 was a four year law. Now, we have to decide whether we want to fire thousands of teachers and social workers and doctors or if we want a five percent income tax rate. Choosing the latter isn’t breaking any promise.


  9. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 12:35 pm:

    There are many bills passed every with sunset dates. That’s a normal part of governing.

    But focusing on that procedural element alone ignores the broader context of what transpired.

    This wasn’t just another bill or some technical change. This bill went down to the wire, was highly controversial at the time, and was “sold” or “pushed through” that contentious environment on the premise of being “temporary”. In that regard, it wasn’t just a typical sunset provision. It was a codification of the premise underlying the entire bill.


  10. - OldSmoky2 - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 12:49 pm:

    So then do those who oppose keeping the income tax hike have another realistic way for the state to keep making pension payments? Or would they rather the state just default? Or do they have another solution other than just not paying pensions already promised (which would not stand up in court)?


  11. - countyline - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 12:54 pm:

    The promise was kept. The law that was passed in 2011 was a four year law. Now, we have to decide whether we want to cut wasteful spending or if we want a five percent income tax rate. Choosing the latter isn’t breaking any promise.

    There, I fixed it for ya.


  12. - anon - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 12:54 pm:

    I think you are missing the REAL hypocrisy here. How about the “promise” double standard with respect to paying pension benefits? Pension benefits were not just “promised”; they were promises supported by consideration of years worked and salray foregone. In other words, an enforceable contract. Breaking a contract is far worse than breaking a promise.


  13. - Bogart - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 12:58 pm:

    What Quinn said the day after it passed is irrelevant. It’s what he said to get it passed that matters. And what he said was that it was temporary. The sales pitch was the promise. Wouldn’t you feel lied to if the salesman said one thing and the fine print another? Of course you would.


  14. - Ghost - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 12:59 pm:

    repeat a lie often enough….


  15. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 1:02 pm:

    “This is a temporary income tax to deal with the immediate fiscal emergency our state faces; to pay the bills so we don’t have severe cutbacks in education, health care, public safety, important things that are absolutely vital to the lives of the citizens,” Quinn added.

    January 12, 2011 http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/01/12/quinn-defends-income-tax-hike


  16. - Mighty M. Mouse - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 1:04 pm:

    The tax increase was temporary, it will soon expire, and now we have to deal with that fact.


  17. - Bogart - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 1:06 pm:

    Here’s an idea for those who want the state to meet all current obligations. The GA and Quinn can give local governments, including Chicago, the authority to declare bankruptcy thus shedding legacy costs legally with a resulting dramatic drop in property taxes and then raise the income tax to 5%. It’s the overall tax burden that matters. Give the people a break.


  18. - Anon - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 1:11 pm:

    The “Quinn lied” narrative suits the GOP, just like their mantra that “IL has a spending problem.” They don’t let the fact that IL has the fourth-lowest spending among the states get in the way of repeating that canard at every opportunity. They surely won’t be inhibited from callng Quinn prevaricator-in-chief by the lack of any statement promising to end the tax in 2015.


  19. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 1:12 pm:

    Once again, the Tribbie editorial board demonstrates that they don’t read the news pages of the Chicago Tribune.

    Who do these guys think they are? The Wall Street Journal?


  20. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 1:54 pm:

    Anon - it’s not a “narrative”. It is a “fact” that Governor Quinn labeled this “temporary”. There are many more links and quotes than the one posted above. And, to be fair, Quinn was not the only legislator who clearly stated this was “temporary”.

    With that established, please consider the meaning of “temporary” - continuing for a limited amount of time : not permanent : intended to be used for a limited amount of time

    We may need to make this tax increase permanent. But the media, legislators and the public did not simply make up the notion this was “sold” on the premise of being “temporary”.


  21. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 1:55 pm:

    ===It is a “fact” that Governor Quinn labeled this “temporary”. ===

    Yep, it’s a fact. But he never once promised not to do what he has done.


  22. - okgo - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:14 pm:

    This is pretty simple - the law passed was to have a higher income tax rate for a few years.

    The NEW bill, requiring an entirely NEW vote and signature, would make that higher income tax rate permanent.

    Its only a “broken promise” if they were somehow going to keep the higher tax rate without ever having a new vote (which would be unconstitutional, obviously).


  23. - okgo - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:16 pm:

    … and just as they had to sell the last vote on making it temporary, they are selling the current vote on making it permanent.

    If you don’t want it to be permanent, don’t vote for it. That’s pretty simple.


  24. - Norseman - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:19 pm:

    === It is a “fact” that Governor Quinn labeled this “temporary”. ===

    If it quack’s like a duck, walks like a duck, it’s a duck. That doesn’t make it a promise. What your quote proves is that Quinn knows how to read legislation.


  25. - Dan Johnson - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:33 pm:

    Thanks countyline….


  26. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:34 pm:

    ==“pushed through” that contentious environment on the premise of being “temporary”==

    It is clear the governor never said that. Just because some people take different views of the same piece of legislation doesn’t make one view necessarily more true than others.


  27. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:38 pm:

    What I mean is that Quinn never said temporary meaning expires 2015 is when temporary ends. The same “fiscal emergency” exists today. As Norseman said, the quote just proves Quinn can read legislation.


  28. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 3:02 pm:

    Norseman, Precinct Captain & Rich - I can see your point. I strongly disagree with it based on the spirit and intent of what I believe was communicated at the time, but I can see it from a logical standpoint.

    Appreciate the constructive exchange, as always.


  29. - A guy... - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 3:28 pm:

    All that nuance is lost on the general public. They believe what they read in newspapers. To a person, they’d swear that this “temporary” income tax passed by lame ducks was promised to be temporary. You can rationalize it here…but not there.


  30. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 3:33 pm:

    I could frankly care less whether it was labeled as temporary or not. I’m more concerned with what happens now and what happens now is that the budget blows up if the current tax rates aren’t made permanent, or at the very least extended.


  31. - A guy... - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 4:15 pm:

    Demo, that’s a much better hill to fight on than whether he promised (in so many words) or not. The side shows waste time. PQ is running out of time.


  32. - Walker - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 4:50 pm:

    Gotta say I’m with Upon Further Review on this one.

    Absent a firm plan on how we would get substantially out of the hole in five years, and absent any Republican votes on the three other bills on the floor that week which would have helped achieve solvency, the tax rate increase should not have been announced as “temporary.”

    The belief by leaders at the time was that, labeling the rate increase “permanent,”(my own preference) would have led to its political failure. Failure, IMO, would have been disastrous in the short term for the state.

    Part of its “sale” to legislators, and also to the public, was its “temporary” label.

    We should have all gotten behind the whole package, which included focused debt restructuring, spending cuts and statutory controls as well. Those, plus a slightly faster improving economy than we subsequently had, would have legitimized the “temporary” label.

    It was an all-in, do-it-all plan on both revenue and spending that was needed. It still is because we did half measures then.

    You make your political choices — you live with the later consequences.


  33. - low level - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 5:31 pm:

    Ever since the Tribune published a photograph of Madigan’s district office parking lot, I have ceased taking anything they say seriously.

    Absolutely right, Rich. They make no sense on this, nor many other issues.


  34. - low level - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 5:40 pm:

    Not to mention one of the reporters of said story who slipped his card under my door and wrote that it was important to call him.

    I live in a condo with a phone downstairs to allow guests to call and gain entrance. He did not call me from downstairs, meaning he followed someone in and was trespassing.

    I found it funny. Apparently they are not in the least interested in objective reporting any longer…only in making the case that could be portrayed as being “progressive” is bad.


  35. - liandro - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 10:01 pm:

    I’ll try this once more, and abbreviate; maybe Rich will allow it: Quinn made a campaign promise that he would veto any hike over 1%, but immediately turned around and broke that promise. He and his allies then emphasized that it was a temporary hike, which few believed was ever the intention.

    I see the pattern. I’m sure all of you do, too. Defending him is just playing semantic games. To quote the bard, “by any other name…”


  36. - a drop in - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 11:10 pm:

    And Bruce Rauner made a campaign statement to reduce the Illinois minimum wage a dollar, then made another to increase it with caveats. What’s your point?

    So many people are straining to bend this to whomever they support that I am investing in a company that makes trusses.


  37. - Mighty M. Mouse - Thursday, May 1, 14 @ 10:40 am:

    ===And Bruce Rauner made a campaign statement to reduce the Illinois minimum wage a dollar, then made another to increase it with caveats. What’s your point?

    So many people are straining to bend this to whomever they support that I am investing in a company that makes trusses. ===

    Great post!


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