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HGOPs, Pritzker trade barbs over Stratton comments, tax hikes, budget cuts

Friday, Sep 25, 2020

* Background is here if you need it. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin today

Yesterday, Lt. Gov. Stratton threatened Illinois citizens with at least a 20 percent across the board income tax increase if their cherished tax increase hike amendment fails in November. That 20 percent comment is just a starting point, it is just the beginning, if you believe. Her intimidation and scare tactics used yesterday against Illinois citizens, employers, employees, retirees are a clear sign of desperation by the governor, lieutenant governor, Speaker Mike Madigan because their tax hike amendment is failing and the election is around the corner. […]

Here’s the message in no uncertain words: If you do not pass my tax hike amendment, we will annihilate you with a 20 percent tax increase across the board, across the board, when we return to session.

I spent yesterday with a group of Will County farmers, they all spoke about one thing: That was the fear of this tax amendment. These are not men and women of means, they work with their hands, with a job they love. Same goes for my hardware store owner in my town. The bakery owner. The restaurant owner in my town. Each one of them fears what this is going to do to their livelihoods, particularly at a time of pandemic, with the state of Illinois has forced so many closures upon them. They’re struggling to make ends meet. They’re struggling to keep people on the payroll. But to threaten Illinois citizens with a smile on their face, that if you pass this tax amendment we’re going to oppose a 20 percent income tax increase, increase against you, we will punish you for not following us. It speaks volumes that this tax amendment is failing and the Democrats are desperate.

Please pardon all transcription errors.

* Deputy House Republican Leader Tom Demmer

The comments that were issued yesterday by Lieutenant Governor Stratton were problematic for a couple of reasons. First, because they portrayed a false choice to Illinois voters between one tax hike or another tax hike. And what that misses is a couple of key points that taxpayers across Illinois have been pushing Springfield to consider for years. First, if the choice is only between two tax hike hikes, it means that the administration is not considering any number of meaningful reforms, spending reductions, or efficiencies that they should find within the agencies that they control and operate. It means that any of those meaningful reforms are not coming to the major cost drivers that have pushed us year after year into facing these financial challenges. But second, it misses a very important message that voters have been sending to Springfield for over a decade. And that’s don’t tax more. It’s not that voters who are saying no to the fair tax are getting caught up in the details of this, voters who are saying no to the graduated income tax are saying no because they’re sending a message to Springfield, that says stop coming back to Illinois taxpayers every couple of years to raise income taxes because you refuse to deal with the underlying issues that are causing so much hardship and so much pressure for families across the state of Illinois.

* The House Republicans originally scheduled their press conference for 11 this morning, but then late last night Gov. Pritzker decided to schedule his own presser at 11. The HGOPs changed their start time to 10:30 and I asked Leader Durkin if he did that to avoid appearing at the same time as Pritzker

We did. I wanted the governor to be able to explain why his lieutenant governor has threatened Illinois citizens that if you don’t vote for this tax amendment we’re going to tax the heck out of you with 20 percent. That is a scare tactic that was done on the same day that early voting is starting in Cook County. That was all planned yesterday, but that was to get into the heads of people who are uncertain, people who are scared about what the future is going to be particularly in a time of a pandemic. But I want the governor to explain why they’re using this intimidation, this scare tactic with Illinois citizens in Illinois voters. I want to hear the answer to this question today.

* OK, on to Gov. Pritzker. The governor was asked today if he thought Stratton’s comments seemed like a threat

No, that’s your characterization. Here’s what I would tell you. And I said this from the very beginning that there are three choices that are facing the people of Illinois right now, in order to deal with the structural deficit, that’s putting aside the need for state and local funding from the federal government because of the failure of revenues because of COVID-19. We already had a structural deficit in Illinois that you’re aware of. And there are three choices that people have. It’s either you’re gonna see a 20% increase, meaning one full percentage-point increase, in order to cover that structural deficit - by the way, that structural deficit that was there under my predecessor, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner. Either that, or you’re going to see a 15% cut in government in our budget, which would significantly reduce education funding at the state level, and significantly, therefore, increase property taxes in the state, and would reduce funding for our public safety, all of which we need to address. And then the third, [crosstalk] and then the third choice, if I may just finish my answer, the third choice the third way, frankly, that we need to go not that the traditional routes, I agree with the you know, with people who understand the three, that we need to go another direction. And the best direction that we should go to deal with this is to make sure that we’re asking those who are most able to step up to pay to do so those are the wealthiest in our state, and to give a tax cut to 97% of people in Illinois. And that’s the direction that I think we ought to go in.

* The governor then said that the Republicans ought to reveal what they want to cut. He was told that the GOP claims he hasn’t been interested in making cuts

They haven’t been listening, because we’ve been doing it all along. You saw that we negotiated a contract with the unions that cut about $750 million in total from the budget. That’s something that Bruce Rauner never did. Never was willing to sit down at the table. Because of the health care cost cuts that we were able to bring enormous savings. That’s just one item in a whole panoply of other areas. We’ve done that. That’s not something Republicans have ever been interested in engaging in. All they want to do is attack, attack ,attack, and they want to take services away and pensions away from people in the state.

* The Republicans, he was told, characterized the argument today as either you vote for this amendment, or we’re going to annihilate you with a 20 percent income tax increase

No, they’re the ones that are proposing annihilating the working class and the middle class in Illinois, because they have no solutions. I’ve said from the very beginning that the reason we need the fair tax is so we can avoid these other solutions. These are the ones the Republicans are leaving you with, the idea that you’re going to raise taxes on the middle class, working class; or that you’re going to cut the education, public safety, healthcare services that people rely upon. I mean, the developmentally disabled, all those line items would all be significantly cut if the Republicans had their way. I’m proposing something that will help us get past this problem, a problem that was in part created by them. And that left us with eight downgrades of our credit rating in the state of Illinois, just over the previous governor’s term.

He also said he remained hopeful that Congress would come up with a funding package before the election.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Donnie Elgin - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 1:53 pm:

    =Either that, or you’re going to see a 15% cut in government in our budget=

    Thanks to Stratton, we now have JB clearly on the record. I suppose he thinks that the 15% cut is a threat; to a much of the electorate that is a benefit of a no vote on the CA.

  2. - Pundent - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 1:55 pm:

    The IGOP is certainly a one trick pony these days. Durkin’s comments are utterly confusing and he simply seems to be making Stratton’s point. There’s going to be an increase, it’s just a question of who will be paying. And Demmer’s remarks are a walk down Rauner’s memory lane of “reform.” We heard that for four years and have nothing to show for it. No spending cuts, a backlog of bills, and a government that is understaffed in what are now critical areas like the IDES and IDPH. Rauner’s department heads were no more able to come up with spending cuts than Pritzkers’ are. And when Rauner finally got a budget every penny of it was spent (and we’re going to be paying the interest tab for some time to come). And this was all before we got walloped by a global pandemic.

    I’m not sure what the argument is against a fair tax because I haven’t heard a good one yet.

  3. - Rich Miller - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 1:55 pm:

    ===to a much of the electorate that is a benefit===

    You clearly don’t know much about Illinois.

  4. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 1:59 pm:

    The ILGOP is great…at being itself. Just empty condemnation from the sidelines and no plans to address our dire fiscal situation.

    The ILGOP clearly and unanimously communicated one policy to Illinoisans, however: anything but the rich paying a little more in taxes.

  5. - Anonymous - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 2:00 pm:

    Love the fact that that Pritzker made Stratton deliver the message. Was he afraid to deliver it himself? Nothing like throwing your lieutenant governor under the bus.

  6. - Moe Berg - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 2:05 pm:

    If the progressive income tax goes down, Democrats should at long last call the GOP bluff on low-taxes, less government.

    We got to this point, financially, due to decades of poor decisions by both parties. Durkin, Demmer and most Republican legislators know this.

    Many retirees enjoying their state pensions used to be GOP political foot soliders back in the day.

    But, if the responsibility for digging out isn’t to be shared, then let the GOP enjoy less government by closing universities, prisons and other facilities in Republican areas.

    You can save a lot of money on salaries and beneifts you aren’t paying for people who used to be employed in Republican districts.

    Democrats can label it “pension reform” and get the ed boards to cheer.

  7. - Chichi55 - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 2:06 pm:

    Passing of the Progressive tax relies on trusting Illinois politicians. I believe Pritzker and his threat has done a lot to undermine that.

  8. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 2:06 pm:

    Meh. Demmer. Lots of activity, not achieving much here.

    I’ll stick with my words used earlier today;

    === - Oswego Willy - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 9:37 am

    Here the realities, without the hyperbole;

    The Governor had “71 and 36” to get the CA on the ballot.

    The Governor also had GA pass the rates.

    Two votes, the Dems has for this tax

    The Governor then sat on $50 million+ for weeks and weeks and weeks. Now, with early voting and absentee ballots out, has the governor made a colossal error by not saturating a message on the 97% aspect, and by Stratton bringing in the closing argument, in September (well, people *are* voting) what is going to be discussed more; the 97% not seeing an increase or the increase that will be needed if it fails… for weeks and weeks.

    Then, if it does fail, will the governor find Dem votes to increase as Stratton says (they probably can) but how can you trust a governor who sat on two huge assets (time from spring passage and $50 million) to define the CA, unabated, and make time an asset, which now is squeezed, artificially now, by burning daylight.

    Will Dems legislators say… “Governor, you had the time and the money, why did you wait, you had the field open too?”

    Did Stratton go out on this alone or was this calculated… and now it makes the discussion, with Griffin’s $20 million and his time window still open, about a massive income tax increase, not the 97% seeing no change?

    It’ll be interesting. I dunno if the saturation of the 97% took hold.===

  9. - PublicServant - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 2:10 pm:

    So… as previously asked, any polls on likely voter support for the fair tax amendment?

  10. - Unconventionalwisdom - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 2:10 pm:

    Very bad statement by Stratton. Only confirms what Republicans have been saying. If those opposed to the graduated tax are smart they will blaze his comment all over the media.

    But the state is in real trouble. The Republicans should be on record as to what they will cut/freeze.

    And if they don’t do that the DEMS should attack that lack of record all over the meida.

  11. - Leigh John-Ella - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 2:11 pm:

    Suddenly the GOP loves the status quo. It’s almost like the filthy rich executives who put money in their campaign pockets called them up and told them change is bad.

  12. - Yucko - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 2:14 pm:

    I’ve read Pitzker’s statement three times, and still can’t figure out what his third option is.

  13. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 2:16 pm:

    If the graduated income tax amendment doesn’t pass a lot of people will have to look in the mirror when the flat income tax hike comes. It’s better to begin understanding that as soon as possible. We can’t have a dishonest air about Illinois’ finances and partisan makeup. We’re not just going to make cuts, no matter how much certain people fantasize about it.

  14. - NIU Grad - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 2:19 pm:

    I can’t recall the last time there was this much attention on comments made by a Lt. Governor…

  15. - City Zen - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 2:37 pm:

    Either a 20% tax hike or 15% budget cut, but nothing in between? Wouldn’t another option be a tax hike and spending cuts?

  16. - Cornerfield - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 2:43 pm:

    All of those farmers and small business owners that “are struggling to make ends meet”? If they actually end up paying more taxes on their net income with the fair tax amendment, I’d like to have the same “struggle”.

  17. - hisgirlfriday - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 3:04 pm:

    @Moe Berg - Dems “calling the Republicans bluff” with some policy proposal just to make editorial boards happy is what got the Illinois Dems cross-wise with much of their base and gave us Gov. Rauner.

    Republicans will not be punished by voters for the cuts or tax increases to come. They are not in charge.

    If the progressive tax amendment fails, a big reason why will be the people selling it didn’t demonize rich people enough. They didn’t point out during the pandemic how the people at the top are actually getting richer on the stock market even as the unemployment rate is super high.

    I also noticed in some of the commercials that the yes on fair tax people have some line about how Illinois is in bad financial trouble so you should vote for the fair tax… that just makes it sound like you are throwing good money after bad.

    I don’t think from a political messaging perspective that the consultants Pritzker has running this have done a good job messaging it, perhaps because they think they need to cool it with the eat the rich pitchforks when JB is Mr. Moneybags behind the campaign.

  18. - walker - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 3:05 pm:

    To expand on Cornerfield’s comment above:
    By actual count (before the COVID struggles which lowers income more), most small business owners in Illinois will pay less in taxes if the Fair Tax Amendment passes, not more. The rest is all fear tactics, to benefit those few who are in no way struggling..

  19. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 3:14 pm:

    ==Wouldn’t another option be a tax hike and spending cuts?==

    Sure it is. So when are Brady and Durkin going to propose that plan?

  20. - City Zen - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 3:31 pm:

    ==some line about how Illinois is in bad financial trouble so you should vote for the fair tax… that just makes it sound like you are throwing good money after bad==

    So I wasn’t the only one who caught that.

  21. - Louis G Atsaves - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 3:35 pm:

    Adding to the mix are the new Fair Tax ads which now state that 97% of taxpayers will pay less taxes if you vote for it. What is confusing is they are still running the old ads that state 97% of taxpayers will pay the same amount or less if you vote for it. Which is it? Sounds different than prior assurances that only billionaires will pay any increases.

    And why confuse things even more by having the Lt. Governor state if this vote fails, then the flat tax goes up 20% across the board? They’ve had hours to walk that one back and they haven’t. And let’s not forget the Illinois Treasurer’s previous statements that retirement income will someday be subject to income taxes.

    If there is nothing that can be cut out of the current State budget, then why is the Governor ordering between 5% and 10% cuts, depending upon the agency?

    The Democrats are starting to look like the old movie Keystone Cops here.

  22. - Juvenal - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 3:37 pm:

    Agree with HisgirlFriday. Ken Griffin understands its Us v Them, why keep the pistol holstered?

    “For too long, the wealthy like former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore have gamed the system, keeping their taxes low while the rest of us pay more.

    This November, let’s turn the tables. Let’s make the rich pay their fair share. Vote Yes on the Fair tax amendment to the illinois Constitution.”

  23. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 3:51 pm:

    ===Illinois Treasurer’s previous statements that retirement income will someday be subject to income taxes.===

    While it’s agreed, Frerichs is tall…

    What governor will sign a bill taxing retirement income.

    You know that - Louis G Atsaves -

    And I agree, I don’t necessarily *see* how eating weeks and weeks to sell the 97% is now helped by now inserting, correctly timed “if it doesn’t pass” closing argument…

    … has the 97% no raise in your income tax saturated.

    You sit on $50+ million, the playing field for yourself and weeks and weeks to saturate a thought, I dunno…

  24. - Yucko - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 4:07 pm:

    One big topic in the area where we live is being sold the “Fair Tax” proposal from a governor who before elected wither directly or indirectly looked for, and acted on questionable actions to significantly reduce his property taxes, which shifted the burned to other taxpayers.

  25. - Jibba - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 4:22 pm:

    ==If there is nothing that can be cut out of the current State budget===

    You can cut meat and bone if you must, but you won’t like the impact on services. And the party of No will run in the next election on the idea that services are being provided poorly. This is why most Illinoisans gave the GOP a super minority. No ideas.

  26. - Perrid - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 4:35 pm:

    Durkin’s contempt for the intelligence of the Illinois people is mind boggling.

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