I am headed to Starved Rock today to meet with Arc Past President Jacki Neil Boss!
Senator Steans is a former Arc Legislator of the year and Chairperson of the Senate
Appropriations Committee. Well said Senator! From today’s Chicago Tribune.
Stop the Illinois income tax rollback
By Heather Steans
Let me introduce you to Calvin, a young man with bipolar disorder. Calvin used to be
hospitalized every other week. But during the past five years, he’s gone to the hospital only
Calvin went from group home to group home, then to independent living. Now he has his
own place and pays his own rent.
Calvin tried unsuccessfully to get a job, sending out 10 to 15 applications a day. He has
now held a job for more than three years and recently bought a car.
Although he wanted to drop out of high school, he kept pushing himself to go. Today he
attends Truman College in Uptown, studying criminal justice and music.
Calvin’s life was changed by the services he receives from a state-supported mental health
provider. Across Illinois, there are hundreds of thousands of stories like Calvin’s involving
senior citizens, special-needs children and people with physical and mental disabilities.
Many of them have become productive citizens because of the help they receive. Yet, all
of them are at risk today due to a lack of political courage and straight talk.
Simply put, if the current state income tax rate is allowed to expire at the end of the year
as scheduled, it will mean a 14 percent cut in spending for education and human services.
For education, that will mean more teacher layoffs, larger classes and possibly higher
property taxes. For human services, it will mean nothing short of devastation:
• About 23,000 fewer children would receive child care;
• More than 12,000 fewer seniors would receive help from in-home caretakers;
• Nearly 40,000 fewer individuals with mental illnesses would receive assistance;
• More than 10,000 individuals with substance use disorders would lose services.
In human terms, this is clearly unacceptable. It is also shortsighted from a budgetary
perspective, resulting in thousands more hospital visits and expensive institutionalizations.
Yet, few politicians have been willing to confront the elephant in the room and offer straight
talk to the voters about the consequences of inaction.
Many Democrats are touting the adoption of a progressive income tax, which, they hope, will
provide more revenue for critical state programs. But this requires amending the state
constitution — an arduous path with no assurance of success. Even if the amendment is
approved by voters this November, legislation must be proposed and passed in the following
session to set the new tax rates and rules — a process sure to take time and invite multiple
Meanwhile, the current 5 percent income tax rate will start to phase out Jan. 1
— leaving a $2.4 billion hole in the state’s 2015 budget.
Most Republicans pretend that we can make up this difference through more cuts in state
spending. But we’ve already closed state prisons and hospitals and made significant cuts in
state pensions and Medicaid — cuts I supported. There is certainly room to make state
government more efficient.
For example, I am working to consolidate hundreds of miscellaneous state funds to reduce
their number and potentially save millions of tax dollars. And we must address the thousands
of units of local governments in Illinois. But suggesting that we can simply cut our way out of
our budget problems is not realistic.
To its credit, the Civic Federation recognizes the elephant in the room and recently proposed
keeping the temporary income tax another year and then more gradually phasing it out,
supplemented by a new tax on Social Security and pension benefits. But I fail to see how
placing an even greater tax burden on our state’s senior citizens — many of them living on
fixed incomes — is a fair solution to our revenue problem.
That’s why I support stopping the scheduled phase-out of the current 5 percent personal
income tax rate this session. And I will push for its consideration before adjournment in May
rather than waiting until after the election for a lame-duck session. The voters of Illinois
deserve to know who voted to protect our most vulnerable citizens before the November
We simply cannot allow thousands of our most vulnerable fellow citizens to live in fear of
losing the programs they depend on to help them live lives of meaning and potential.
Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago represents the 7th Senate District and
chairs the Appropriations Committee.
Tony Paulauski Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423