Times have been hard around the country the past two years, but Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, thinks Illinois' budgetary woes resemble a train wreck.
In its new report, released today, Martire's Chicago-based budget think-tank said the state's low levels of taxation, a multi-year practice of using the state's pension to pay operating expenses and the economic meltdown have combined to create a deficit that, at nearly $9.5 billion, is close to 40 percent of the state's entire budget.
The report said the mess has come about not because of spending "like a drunken sailor" or because of misplaced priorities--the four areas of education, health care, human services and public safety account for more than 90 percent of General Fund expenditures--but because the pie is too small.
The fix: raise the state income tax from 3 to 5 percent, increase the corporate income tax rate from 4.8 percent to 8 percent and make retirement income for tax filers with more than $50,000 in Adjusted Gross Income subject to the state's personal income tax.
Martire acknowledged that this would be a tough sell for the state's politicians. But he said Rep. Mike Lawrence told him how he could ensure passage: