Any time you hear a politician say they received a "mandate," just assume that what they're talking about is complete bullshit. Whether it's an unnecessary war, a gimmicky, bloated spending bill or Pat Quinn's 2012 fiscal year budget plan, it always makes a tough sell that much easier when they convince themselves you want it sooo badly but you just can't bring yourself to admit it.
In the coming weeks, Senate Democrats intend to push legislation
authorizing casinos in Chicago, an undetermined south suburban
location, north suburban Park City and Downstate Danville. The
expansion plan also would allow slot machines at six Illinois
racetracks and expand the number of gambling machines now in use at
The package is similar to what the Senate passed in May 2009. But in an
interview with the Sun-Times, the governor expressed pessimism over the
new gambling plan and said his push to raise the individual income tax
rate by 1 percentage point -- to 4 percent -- should take priority...
In a series of post-election interviews with print and broadcast media,
the governor has said he views his defeat of Republican Bill Brady, an
ardent opponent of the income tax hike, as a mandate from voters on how
to deal with a state budget deficit that could reach $15 billion.
Now, I'm a big quarter slots fan, so I'm clearly on the side of expanding the availability of slot machines in my general vicinity. That said, I also tend to believe that 20,000 votes does not a mandate make. A close call, maybe. A clear indication that people were so torn on who was the bigger idiot they managed to send the election into a 72 hour tailspin, probably. I'm not sure anyone pulled the lever for Quinn without thinking long and hard about who was the lesser of two evils, ergo, no mandate.
To be fair, though, I guess, he was pretty upfront about the whole income tax thing - we knew sometime in the summer when he didn't deny that he was planning a 66% increase - that we were in for some creative budget solutions. Even though it's pretty clear from what happened to Michigan, which went to shit when the former governor though the brightest idea she'd ever heard was to raise taxes on middle-class workers and small-business owners as a way to stimulate a flagging economy, thus sending millions of residents like me screaming for, of all places, Illinois, he's gonna keep insisting on this one and we knew all along. Its our fault. We deserve it. Just like Pat Quinn deserves every flaming bag of dog crap left on the Governor's mansion porch.
That said, we're not in the clear. The trick here is to demand accountability for the tax increase if we have to have one, right? Currently, Pat's running on the assumption that you'll hear the words "education" and "lower property taxes" and safely assume that (1) education will be funded and (2) your property taxes will get lower. When you do the math, though, the results are quite that clear - as in, there's no f***ing way either of those is getting addressed. For starters, this income tax increase will raise approximately $4 billion per year. The budget shortfall is $15 billion, and that money includes over $8 billion in back payments to school districts, social welfare organizations and municipalities. Plus, there's a $4 billion dollar shortfall in the state's pension program, which the state legislature hasn't corrected yet, primarily because they don't have the cash. That's almost $30 billion of debt...and that's not counting what we're going to spend on this year or the spending increases that will be required to sustain services as they are (not to mention the spending spree Quinn went on to earn votes right before the election OR the priorities he promised to fund to pay back the unions for supporting him). Let's face it, if you give the government money, it'll spend it...and when it runs out, it will come back to you for more.
The tax increase might loosen the burden a little. It might keep the state from having to take drastic action. If, as it is in my dreams, it's combined with sensible but drastic cuts to unnecessary spending, it just might work (which, given that it's government will never actually happen). But let's face it: it's like taking a part time job at Target earning to pay off a ten thousand dollar credit card bill when you keep spending at a rate of $20K per year. Suze Orman would be pissed at you.
There's also, of course, the question of whether Quinn can even push the increase through. You need a 60-vote majority to push it through the first time, and so far, it looks like the Dems have only managed to wrangle 47 votes, and that was this summer, before Dems had to head back to their districts and campaign on a pledge not to raise taxes. By January, the veto-proof majority in the House is gone and the lead in the Senate shrinks. If Quinn can't get this baby through now, it's probably toast, not that anyone with income is complaining.