* Doug Finke…
Ahead of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget address next week, the Civic Federation is again calling for taxing some retirement income and extending the state sales tax to some services as part of its proposal to stabilize state finances. […]
The Civic Federation compiled a list of 11 steps it believes the state should follow to reestablish the state’s financial health. Number one on the list is limiting annual spending growth to 2.1 percent for the next five years at a minimum. The group recommended other cost control measures like cutting the interest rate the state pays on overdue bills, consolidating government units and creating a commission to explore consolidating governance of state universities.
Other recommendations will be more difficult, Msall acknowledged. The organization said the state should impose the income tax on the same retirement income that is taxed at the federal level. For example, there is a federal income tax on 401(k) distributions, but Illinois does not tax them. Imposing that tax has been a third rail in Illinois politics.
Also, the report calls for a constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot “to clarify the pension protection clause.” That clause prevents lawmakers from enacting cuts to pensions of current public employees.
The report is here. Maybe one day the right people will start listening to some of this stuff.
* Greg Hinz…
All those are disliked by some, but potentially even more unpopular is the federation’s call to create a bipartisan commission “to rationalize the state’s higher education system.”
The federation notes that six of the state’s 12 university campuses have seen their enrollment drop since 2008, with only two up since 2015: The University of Illinois campuses at Urbana-Champaign and Chicago. With the population of high school students also dropping, the federation says, “The commission should consider the elimination of duplicative higher education programs, reallocation of resources across programs and campuses and the closure or consolidation of campuses.” Particularly weak have been Northeastern, Southern, Western and Eastern Illinois Universities, and Chicago State University.
As a first step, the Civic Fed adds, the state should concentrate management of the schools under fewer boards.
* Monique Garcia…
While the state’s finances have begun to stabilize in the months since lawmakers passed a major income tax hike over Rauner’s veto, the group says tough choices must be made to fully dig out of the hole. […]
Also on the group’s list is establishing a rainy day fund and approving a major infrastructure construction program. It would be paid for by an increase in the gasoline tax, as well as congestion taxes and levies based on how many miles a vehicle has traveled.