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When the Tribune was for honest budgeting and extending a tax hike

Tuesday, Oct 28, 2014

[Bumped up for visibility.]

* From the Chicago Tribune’s endorsement of Republican Jim Edgar over Democrat Neil Hartigan in 1990 and Edgar’s support for making the “temporary” income tax hike permanent and Hartigan’s opposition

It`s too bad that the public debate in this race has focused almost exclusively on taxes, and that Hartigan has played to anti-tax forces that believe they can elect Walt Disney and spend four years in Fantasia.

When Hartigan announced his proposals to find $573 million next year by slashing budgets, levying a new business tax and collecting heretofore lost revenues, they fell in the realm of safe, unrealistic, pre-election rhetoric. If he wanted to try to cut the budget, more power to him. When he came up short of expectations, the only damage would be to the psyche of Illinois voters who would have been fooled about the state`s fiscal condition in three consecutive campaigns.

But Hartigan saw that the anti-tax message moved polls in his direction. He decided to embrace the anti-tax fever even if it meant boxing himself in as governor. He announced that he would veto any attempt to continue the current 20 percent surcharge on state income taxes, even the portion that gives $370 million to the state`s struggling schools and universities. He would find the money for education in dramatic budget cuts and revenue increases that, so far, are nothing more than dreams on paper.

That was unrealistic and irresponsible. He is counting on a natural growth in existing taxes that, in view of current economic conditions, is too optimistic by at least $100 million. His proposal to slap a new sales tax on industries that expand, modernize or relocate in Illinois would be risky in good economic times; today, it`s outlandish.

And by taking so much state money away from local taxing bodies, he`s inviting increases in property taxes-a far more unpopular, inequitable way to raise money than the income tax he wants to cut.

If he fails, if his plans fall far short of his promises, either the schools won`t get the money or the state will go into debt. Or Hartigan will have to ask for higher taxes. Voters will scream and lawmakers who remember his campaign will just say no.

Those were the days, eh?

Substitute “Rauner” for “Hartigan” and they could’ve written the exact same editorial today… If they were still unwilling to live in a fiscal and economic “Fantasia,” that is.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

42 Comments
  1. - circular firing squad - Monday, Oct 27, 14 @ 8:48 pm:

    But that was when the Tribbies were honest and the nod for paper counted for something
    No more Capt Fax…no more


  2. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Oct 27, 14 @ 8:53 pm:

    That was before they threw out their calculator. They had vastly more intellectual integrity then.


  3. - Roadiepig - Monday, Oct 27, 14 @ 8:54 pm:

    Wow. For some reason I vaguely remember that editorial after all these years. This also shows how far my once lifetime party has slid towards a hard right platform. Purity tests have alienated many long time Republican voters (myself included).

    Remember when being a moderate-right leaning Republican wasn’t considered an outcast?


  4. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Oct 27, 14 @ 8:56 pm:

    The part where the Tribune dismisses the idea of balancing the budget though natural revenue growth is priceless.

    It is also a genuinely fiscally conservative approach.

    As opposed to an “anti-tax” or an “anti-spending” approach, which isn’t necessarily fiscally conservative.

    For example, eschewing taxes when it leads to borrowing to pay for operations is not fiscally responsible.

    Nor is failing to pay for something - like prenatal exams - that just leads to bigger and totally unavoidable expenses down the road.

    The Tribune seems to believe, hope really, that Democrats will be a check on Bruce Rauner’s excesses.

    But if Rauner wins, I expect no tax increase or extension will pass the Illinois house unless half the republicans vote for it, including Durkin and all of his leadership team.


  5. - PoolGuy - Monday, Oct 27, 14 @ 8:57 pm:

    Hey Tribbies, you’re supposed to wait until after the election before you say “we’re going to Disneyland.”


  6. - Ducky LaMoore - Monday, Oct 27, 14 @ 9:02 pm:

    My take away from this is… almost everyone in the “Greatest Generation” is dead. The people that understood why the middle class flourished, understood that government projects create jobs, understood that the value of labor is something that should be increased not decreased. Nowadays, the “trickle-down economics” crowd has somehow convinced a plurality of people that lower tax rates on capital gains and dividends that really only the wealthy pay plus a lower or non-existent minimum wage has positive benefits for the lower 50%. It doesn’t make sense. It’s pretty obvious that it doesn’t make sense. Our income distribution is that of a third world country. But hey, tax cuts for everyone, right?! That minimum wage worker gets back a little more than $200 more a year when the tax rolls back to 3.75%. And poor Bruce only gets a little over a million. I can feel the trickle from here.


  7. - Macbeth - Monday, Oct 27, 14 @ 9:15 pm:

    Ducky — it’ll come around again. It’s folks like Rauner (and Walker) that make people realize it’s time to recharge and re-engergize the middle class. Rauner and Walker want to strip it. It’ll take strikes and a lot of anger to bring it around again — but it’ll come. We’re due for a resurgence. Rauner just hastens it along.


  8. - Sox fan - Monday, Oct 27, 14 @ 9:24 pm:

    Actually, the Trib’s endorsements for major offices are easy to ascertain. As the above post clearly illustrates, all you have to do is switch the D’s and R’s around to find out where the Tribune stands on the issues.


  9. - Cheswick - Monday, Oct 27, 14 @ 9:25 pm:

    Reading this makes me think when Bruce Rauner was practically pleading with Pat Quinn in the last debate not to extend the tax increase, that Rauner was silently thinking, “I hope he does. I hope he does, because I’m sure going to need that revenue if I get elected.”


  10. - anonano - Monday, Oct 27, 14 @ 9:27 pm:

    A quarter century ago. Back when mullets were popular and people spent little time on Google and their smart phones.


  11. - Norseman - Monday, Oct 27, 14 @ 9:51 pm:

    Those were the good old days.


  12. - James formerly from Wrigley - Monday, Oct 27, 14 @ 9:55 pm:

    Apples to Oranges.

    Taxes are permanently up 25%(3 to 3.75). Rauner is going to do nothing to the 25% tax hike, unlike Hartigan who was going to remove the 20% tax hike (3-2.5).

    Am I wrong? Was Hartigan not completely going to repeal a tax increase and return original 1969 rates? And Rauner is going to partially keep a tax hike such that we’re never going back to 2010, right?


  13. - PoolGuy - Monday, Oct 27, 14 @ 10:18 pm:

    Rauner says he wants to go back to original 3% rate, eventually. at least in one of his statements he said that.


  14. - Truthteller - Monday, Oct 27, 14 @ 10:26 pm:

    I note that Steve Schnorf, one of Edgar’s top staffers and as knowlegable about the budget as anyone, has announced he’s not voting for Rauner.
    Are there other Repubs who will put partisanship aside and be honest about the budget?
    Note that the Civic Fed and Commercial Club plutocrats who bemoan unbalanced budgets are,along with the Trib, in the tank with Rauner. So much with conservative concern with balanced budgets


  15. - R.T. - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 7:41 am:

    The Trib edit brd used to see itself as an above the fray, conservative leaning umpire of Illinois politics. I get the sense now that they think they are combatants in the debate. No longer content to simply call balls and strikes, they think their opinion counts the most, which means they can never allow for the possibility they (or whomever agrees with them) might be wrong.


  16. - Louis G. Atsaves - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 7:45 am:

    Our fiscal situation was the same a quarter of a century ago?

    Or is it much worse now? Was our unemployment worse back then?

    Apples and oranges. Too bad Democrats insist that hope and change are bad for Illinois now. That wasn’t their message just 6 years ago. Perhaps it’s time they put partisanship behind them.


  17. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 7:46 am:

    ==Perhaps it’s time they put partisanship behind them.==

    Indeed, Louis. Perhaps partisanship should be put behind us. Because if it was the Rauner supporters would realize his fiscal plans are fantasy. Only the completely ignorant or those that just don’t care would claim otherwise.


  18. - anon - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 7:49 am:

    Yet Edgars COS, Mr. Dillard, was stumping for Rauner this past week and likely this week.

    See how this works?


  19. - Phenomynous - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 7:54 am:

    Similar, but not the same.


  20. - too obvious - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 8:08 am:

    Recall in early December last year before the big pension reform vote, the Trib editorial board said anyone not in support would define themselves as “the problem.”

    Rauner was one of leading opponents of that bill.

    Rauner is “the problem” according to the Tribune’s own definition.

    Tribune endorses “the problem.”

    Good news. Sun-Times makes Tribune only second most in the tank for Rauner in the dying newspaper category.


  21. - admin - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 8:11 am:

    Trib and the other papers didn’t care that Rauner went on his pledge to provide his plan’s specifics. They endorsed him without a plan. Tribune and all the rest were just impressed with his wealth. If that is the basis of endorsements, then I see these endorsements as in-kind contributions to campaigns and not true journalism.


  22. - Michelle Flaherty - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 8:16 am:

    Wonder what the pension payment was in 90.
    Wonder what it should have been.


  23. - Hard core R - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 8:25 am:

    Was polled last night 2x . Once just the governor asking all three names plus my age group , sex and party affiliation.
    The other was all constitution offices plus the sex, age and party.
    Anyone else and wonder why so late


  24. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 8:29 am:

    I agree that we should not implement fantasy budgets that are pushed on us by Rauner and the trickle down crowd. Rauner doubled down on property tax freezes and elimination of the income tax increase.

    I think we need to look at the budget from many different angles, and one of those angles is a tax increase on people like Rauner, the AFP folks and other super-wealthy anti-tax people.

    I’m not with the crowd who thinks that just taxing wealthy people is the solution to everything. It’s not. That’s why I personally favor reasonable cuts to my state benefits and pay in these horrendous budget times. I absolutely refuse, though, to support those who demonize people like me, even using fascist-style descriptions of union members, like parasites and tumors.


  25. - Economic Justice - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 8:32 am:

    Wow. Good find Rich! Thanks for the laugh. And a great point:

    – Substitute “Rauner” for “Hartigan” and they could’ve written the exact same editorial today –

    Let’s try it with just the first and last paragraphs:

    “It’s too bad that the public debate in this race has focused almost exclusively on taxes, and that Rauner has played to anti-tax forces that believe they can elect Walt Disney and spend four years in Fantasia.”

    “If he fails, if his plans fall far short of his promises, either the schools won’t get the money or the state will go into debt. Or Rauner will have to ask for higher taxes. Voters will scream and lawmakers who remember his campaign will just say no.”

    Yep, yep, that just about says it all.


  26. - RNUG - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 8:38 am:

    - Truthteller - Monday, Oct 27, 14 @ 10:26 pm:

    I’ve voted R for every Gov I had a chance to vote for, starting with Ogilvie, and I have a sign for a GOP candidate in my yard … but I’ll be voting for Quinn.


  27. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 8:45 am:

    ===But (Rauner) saw that the anti-tax message moved polls in his direction. He decided to embrace the anti-tax fever even if it meant boxing himself in as governor…He would find the money for education in dramatic budget cuts and revenue increases that, so far, are nothing more than dreams on paper.===

    It’s amazing that calling out fiscal “soundness” is “wrong” when the narrative of supporting Rauner gets derailed.

    What really amazes me? The idea of “well, that was then…” is the response like budgeting and monies to fit into a budget has changed or true accounting no longer is based on the premise that you have money, you pay bills, and Guy can’t pay for things when you have no money.

    “If it doesn’t help Rauner, then going against what you know you believe and know is right is how we will justify it.”

    Breathtaking.


  28. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 8:50 am:

    Those were the days, eh?

    Yes. They were over twenty years ago.
    A lifetime economically.

    Telling us that something supported twenty years ago during the explosive economic growth during the dot.com and internet booms, should be supported today, doesn’t recognize the vast differences between 1990 and 2014.

    No one is recommending that we buy Enron stock today. There are no wars in the Mideast. There are millions of Baby Boomers still working, the largest generation was still employed - not retiring.

    This isn’t 1990.
    There is a lot of reasons to not support what the Tribune said politically in 1990 either.


  29. - anon - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 9:02 am:

    The Trib also twice editorialized in favor of progressive taxation during the early 90s:

    “A state income tax with modestly graduated rates would be a move toward tax fairness.” –“The unspoken tax debate,” April 20, 1994

    “The rich, because they are able to, should pay a relatively larger portion of their income in taxes.” –“What happened to ‘share the pain,’” Aug. 3, 1993

    It would be hard to imagine the Trib expressing such sentiments today. Couldn’t imagine Rauner saying those words either.


  30. - One of the 35 - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 9:23 am:

    So, let’s see, the choice facing voters is between a guy whose budget is from fantasyland, and a guy who has proven he can’t govern. What to do.


  31. - lake county democrat - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 9:26 am:

    One of the 35: I think the choice is a little different. If Quinn wins we know what his tax plan is and that the Democrats would likely pass it or something like it. If Rauner wins we know his budget WON’T pass (because there is zero chance of the GOP taking control of the legislature) but instead there would be a compromise budget that would mean a smaller tax hike and more budget cuts.


  32. - Very Fed Up - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 9:36 am:

    If we keep the current pension as is and ask the public to continue paying into a system providing benefits most employers would never offer than yes keeping the current tax rates will be necessary. And in a few more years when the obligation grows raising again.


  33. - Economic Justice - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 9:40 am:

    VanillaMan, in October 1990 the U.S. was in a recession and the unemployment rate was on the way back up, sharply so.


  34. - RNUG - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 9:52 am:

    - Very Fed Up - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 9:36 am:

    The pension obligation is pretty much topped out in terms of budget percentage, etc. The change to the ‘Tier 2′ system for new employees in 2011 took care of that. Any tax increases will be for expanded program spending; all those expanded Federal programs re

    And if the State had raised taxes 20 years ago to pay for the expanded programs INSTEAD of just shorting the pension funds, there would be no need for the large pension payments today. The voters of this State choose, through their representatives, to have expanded social / welfare programs without being willing to pay for them. The time to pay the piper came about 5 years ago, and the payment isn’t over.


  35. - RNUG - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 9:54 am:

    lost a sentence

    … all those expanded Federal programs aren’t free and require a percentage of State match.


  36. - Anonymost - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 10:06 am:

    ~~VanillaMan: “There are no wars in the Mideast.”~~

    Really? [Does Syria ring a bell?…Gaza awaits Israel’s next strike…ISIS is under attack by US planes across two borders…ding, ding, ding…]


  37. - Federalist - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 10:15 am:

    The Tribune was in bankruptcy. For them to lecture anyone about fiscal issues takes real gall and they have it- gall that is.


  38. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 10:31 am:

    Obviously this was before Sam Zell’s misadventures caused the Tribune Editorial Board to adopt as it raison d’etre the destruction of all public pensions.


  39. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 12:22 pm:

    James -

    Yes, you are wrong.

    Rauner has pledged to roll the tax rate back from 3.75% to 3%.

    Even the Raunerbots can’t keep his positions on taxes straight.


  40. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 12:33 pm:

    Let 25 year old editorials molder along with the Yugo advertisements found in the same paper.

    Even I am more progressive than that.


  41. - Skeptic - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 12:44 pm:

    “Even I am more progressive than that.” I suppose I should finally throw away my Windows 3.1 diskettes, eh?


  42. - Steve schnorf - Tuesday, Oct 28, 14 @ 7:34 pm:

    Truth I haven’t said I’m not voting for Rauner, I ‘ve said I’m struggling with my vote this year for the first time in a long time


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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