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See you later, calculator

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

By Hannah Meisel

* Republicans in the House had a small gift on their desks this morning, courtesy of Rep. Rob Martwick (D-Chicago). Martwick bought his GOP colleagues calculators (from his own pocket) to send the message that a progressive income tax is a simple math problem.

From the letter…

“Enclosed is a small gift that I hope you will find useful as we approach our budget deadline. Recently, many members have taken to the floor to criticize fiscal policy initiatives. However, as scintillating as these speeches have been, they have all conspicuously lacked one essential element: math.”

* The gift…


* As Rich reported in Crain’s Chicago Business earlier this month, Rep. Martwick asked COGFA to do a study for him asking the question: how high would Illinois’ taxes need to go in order to keep up with the growth of pension debt? COGFA answered that Illinois will run a cumulative $224 billion deficit under our current flat tax structure, and that the state would need to enact a 6.45 percent flat tax on January 1 in order to combat this projected deficit.

Almost all the GOP House members received the calculators and the letter, minus the members who voted with Democrats to override Gov. Rauner’s veto on the budget package last summer, which included a tax hike from 3.75 percent to the current 4.95 percent.

“They acknowledged the fact that 3.75 percent was bankrupting the state,” Martwick told me.

“If the necessary tax to balance the budget over the course of the next 27 years is 6.45 percent, then that’s actually what the tax is,” Martwick said. “We might only be collecting 4.95 percent, but we are assessing a tax of 6.45. The difference is the last point and a half is being put on a credit card that they get to pay later with a lot of interest and I think that is so fiscally irresponsible for us to put that on the backs of the taxpayer under the guise that we’re giving them low taxes. That’s not what we’re doing. We’re giving them the worst kind of taxes: We’re hiding a high tax in a low tax and making them pay a much higher amount later.”

* Martwick said he’s received a little bit of feedback, including from Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield), who noted the plus button on the calculator was bigger than the minus button.

Why calculators and not abacuses?

“We’ll start with the basics,” he told me. “Didn’t want to make it too complicated.”

- Posted by Hannah Meisel        

23 Comments
  1. - Norseman - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 11:54 am:

    What is needed is for the Wizard of Oz to gift our legislators courage.


  2. - Galena Guy - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 11:58 am:

    Rob was my rep, and I was very proud of that.


  3. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 11:59 am:

    And let’s not forget the tin man’s gift either.


  4. - RNUG - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 12:10 pm:

    Would have been even funnier if they were red.


  5. - Truth Squad - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 12:56 pm:

    What a jerk. Cheap stunt.


  6. - jim - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 1:11 pm:

    does he ever consider spending less or slowing the growth of government - or is it always taxing whatever amount you feel like spending.


  7. - Stark - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 1:42 pm:

    Jim, I don’t think it’s taxing to whatever you feel like spending. The basic obligations, in my view, our state should supply like education and a safety net grow with the costs of inflation over time. Spending the same percentage of GDP on healthcare in 1999 and 2019 are two very different appropriations lines.


  8. - Chris Widger - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 1:53 pm:

    ==does he ever consider spending less or slowing the growth of government - or is it always taxing whatever amount you feel like spending.==

    Once you account for all the payments the state is required to make (whether by statute, the constitution or court order), there is very little that can actually be cut. Getting spending down a couple of percentage points, in addition to gutting whatever that money is paying for, doesn’t actually get us closer to addressing structural problems. It’s pretty clear that we have a revenue problem.


  9. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 1:55 pm:

    According to Rob’s calculator, and his tax rates in HB 3522, every Illinoisan earning slightly more than $15,000 will be paying HIGHER income taxes.


  10. - Jones - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 1:55 pm:

    Rob is a Chicago Democrat so even if you tried to explain to him what the “minus” sign means there’s very little chance he would understand it.


  11. - City Zen - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 1:57 pm:

    A simpler math problem is taxing retirement income.


  12. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 2:09 pm:

    not a feel good move.


  13. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 2:21 pm:

    ==does he ever consider spending less or slowing the growth of government - or is it always taxing whatever amount you feel like spending.==

    The Illinois government is shrinking. https://evanstonnow.com/story/government/bill-smith/2011-12-21/46892/ap-illinois-has-fewest-state-workers-per-capita

    And at bargain basement rates too. https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/204866


  14. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 2:39 pm:

    Would be a great idea if real estate taxes and sales taxes were reasonable—they are not.

    I guess our good rep didn’t want to acknowledge that fact.


  15. - City Zen - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 2:51 pm:

    ==The Illinois government is shrinking.==

    While Illinois does indeed rank near the bottom in state workers per capita, that is a typical ranking for high population states. CA, NY, TX, FL, OH are all in the bottom 10 with us.

    ==And at bargain basement rates too.==

    That 2013 union-funded study (Robert Bruno co-chairs a partnership between the UIUC’s Labor Education Program and the AFL-CIO) was followed up a year later by an AEI (conservative) study by that ranked Illinois in the highest state employee compensation category, along with CA, NY, NJ, and a few comparable states.

    Typically, but not always, high populations states tend to hire less workers but pay their workers more, probably due to higher cost of living and better scalability.


  16. - Amalia - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 3:09 pm:

    more in his campaign to erase the machine past, and be ready for an open congressional seat.


  17. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 3:31 pm:

    When I said Illinois government is shrinking, I meant to say that it is shrinking, not that it has fewer government workers compared to other states, although that is true too. (44th in the United States)It has the 11th largest decrease from 2005 to 2015. https://247wallst.com/special-report/2016/05/06/states-with-the-most-government-employees-2/

    Bruno compared Illinois public sector workers to private sector workers, not to workers in others states. Maybe these other state workers are getting stiffed too. Considering we’ve been hearing in the news about some teachers in other states on food stamps, both Bruno and the AEI ould be true.


  18. - City Zen - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 4:46 pm:

    ==Bruno compared Illinois public sector workers to private sector workers, not to workers in others states.==

    I believe the AEI study is a state-by-state analysis and takes into account some things Bruno does not, like retiree health benefits. Bruno does have a point that state workers tend to require more education than the typical private sector worker.

    Comparatively speaking, Illinois public sector compensation is near the top nation-wide. You know which state ranks in the lower categories? Blog-beloved Minnesota.


  19. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 5:37 pm:

    Illinois Tax Reform Petition:

    https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/illinois-tax-reform/?source=search


  20. - City Zen - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 5:42 pm:

    ==Illinois Tax Reform Petition:==

    Over 5 years old and under 200 signatures. Seems like working families have “moved on” from paying a higher progressive income tax.


  21. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 5:52 pm:

    I would be remiss if I did not point out the excellence of the title of this post.


  22. - Mama - Tuesday, May 29, 18 @ 6:39 pm:

    The calculators should have been blue for the “Blue Wave”. That might get their attention.


  23. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, May 30, 18 @ 6:15 am:

    Phew. So there won’t be a stampede en masse of Illinois public sector workers to Minnesota. That’s good to know. There MIGHT be a stampede en masse to the private sector, in which case the State of Illinois will have to sweeten the pot.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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