Yesterday, I went off on a speculative binge. I imagined what Bruce Rauner might have said to Messrs. Madigan and Cullerton when he supposedly called them on Election Night.
That's what I heard him say he did, although his spokespeople are now suggesting that my ears were lying to me. President Cullerton says a Rauner staffer spoke briefly with one of his staffers but there was no direct communication; Speaker Madigan's spokesman is saying there's no record of any attempt by Mr. Rauner to speak with Mr. Madigan.
Eric Zorn had an interview with President Cullerton (one of the big differences between real reporting and mere blogging involves actually talking to people) from which Mr. Zorn developed the distinct, and to me unsettling, impression that, if Mr. Rauner wants the "temporary" income tax rate of 5% to become permanent (or if he wants any interim rate between the imminent 3.75% rate and 5%) he will, in essence, have to beg for it.
Now here's where I get confused: I thought that keeping the 5% rate was necessary to keep Illinois afloat as we paid down some of our pension liabilities and backlogged bills. Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka -- hardly a Quinn partisan -- said a drop in the income tax rate from 5% to 3.75% next year will be like giving the state a heart attack.
If that is the case, it seems -- at best -- unseemly to engage in brinkmanship with the incoming governor on this issue. Our state's credit rating is already in the dumpster.
I'm no fan of paying taxes -- taxes are at best a necessary evil -- but the key word in that phrase is necessary. Past administrations failed to make pension payments, counting on investment income and a growing economy to make up the difference. Then came the Great Recession. Now we have reaped the whirlwind. We have to pay the piper -- and our retirees -- somehow. And, much as I don't like to pay it, the income tax is a far, far better option than Mr. Rauner's suggested tax on services. At least that's what I thought.
Clearly, although I try to pay attention, I don't understand politics. And for all his apparent success in other arenas, neither, I think, does Mr. Rauner. But is it really necessary to use the tax rate issue to teach the governor-elect that there are three branches of government? Isn't Mr. Rauner destined to find out soon enough that being head of the Executive branch means nothing unless he can secure the cooperation of the Legislature?
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