Illinois Green Party Newsletter - February 19, 2015
Illinois Green Party Blasts Gov. Rauner’s “Divide and Conquer” Budget
The Illinois Green Party condemns the budget plan announced February 18th by new Governor Bruce Rauner. Although the actual budget proposal has not yet been made available to the public – itself a significant failing for a governor who promised to improve government transparency – Rauner made his intentions abundantly clear in his budget address. His “solution” to the state’s fiscal problems is to place the burden squarely on the backs of public employees, state universities, university students and their families, low-income persons and health-care providers dependent on Medicaid, and the millions of Illinoisans who depend on a variety of public services.
The Illinois Green Party has long recognized that the budget and pension crisis in Illinois is fundamentally caused by its regressive tax system, which taxes earners in the bottom 20 percent of incomes at nearly triple the rate of the top 1 percent. Yet Rauner simply rejected the idea of doing anything about the revenue side of the budget problem in this year’s budget, instead focusing solely on cuts and sacrifices.
Rauner’s proposals include ending Tier 1 pension benefits for state employees, university employees and teachers outside Chicago hired before 2011, forcing them either into the sharply lower Tier 2 or a 401(k)-style private Wall Street account. This plainly violates the pension clause of the Illinois Constitution. In addition, most of these employees are not currently eligible for Social Security. Forcing them into Tier 2' or a private Wall Street account would likely require adding Social Security eligibility — which could actually drive up costs to the State. At the same time, Rauner intentionally sought to pit worker against worker by proposing that police officers and firefighters be exempt from the shift to Tier 2.
Similarly, while he proposes to improve funding for the Department of Corrections and grade-school education, this is part of a broader “divide and conquer” strategy that pits some recipients of a shrinking pie against others. Without addressing the revenue problem, increases in funding for grade-school education and corrections can only come at the expense of higher education, services for the disabled, elderly, children and others in need, protection of the environment and other essentials. Indeed, Rauner proposes that state assistance for public universities be cut by a shocking 31 percent. Rauner has sought to justify this by suggesting that our state universities can simply raise tuition. Rauner also wants to cut the money going to local governments from the state income tax in half, cut $1.5 billion from the state's Medicaid program, which would entail a rate reduction for both hospitals and nursing homes, and cut funding for public transportation, including a major cut to the budget for AmTrak.
This is unacceptable – and unnecessary. The Illinois Green Party has long proposed far better answers to our state’s fiscal problems. They include adopting a progressive or graduated income tax, like those already in place in our federal system and the majority of states. They include creating a public bank as a repository of state revenues. The publicly owned Bank of North Dakota has helped keep that state in the black and its economy healthy since 1919. And they include enacting a sales tax on speculative trading at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Board Options Exchange and other trading houses – a measure that could dramatically raise billions of dollars in new revenue, simply by taxing the sale of options, futures and derivatives at an infinitesimally small rate. Proposals for creation of a public bank, and for implementation of a sales tax on speculation have been introduced by State Representative Mary Flowers, in H.B. 107 and H.B. 106, respectively. The Illinois Green Party urges support for these bills.
Illinois already has one of the smallest state governments, per capita, in the U.S. It is now unable to carry out some of its most basic functions. College tuition is already way too high, driving up student debt, and our state universities have already suffered terrible consequences from past cuts. Yet Rauner’s proposed budget, like those of his Democratic predecessors, promises only more austerity. This may serve the interests of the wealthy, by keeping their tax burden comfortably low, but it hurts everyone else. Rauner’s budget proposal starkly illustrates that real solutions can only begin when Illinois voters start rejecting the failed policies of the two corporate parties and start electing candidates from the one party that represents the interests of working people and the underprivileged.
Save the Date: Spring Membership Meeting Coming Up!
Our Spring membership meeting has been scheduled for Saturday, April 18th, in the home city of our newest chapter, the Prairie Greens of Champaign-Urbana! The meeting, including an evening dinner, will be held at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, 202 South Broadway, in Urbana. Please save the date to join us, if you can. Among other things, the agenda will include voting on a new platform and election of new officers. More details will follow in our next newsletter.
Want to Help Generate More Interest in the Green Party?
Party chair Rich Whitney has put together a new PowerPoint presentation aimed at explaining to interested persons why participation in the Green Party is so crucial today. Entitled, The Fierce Urgency of Now: Why Green Political Action is Essential, it begins by identifying the most pressing problems facing society today, examines the current political and social landscape and provides a clear explanation as to why Green political action is the key to solving our problems. Rich is willing to come to your chapter, or town, or any other organized gathering, to present this. He can also present on another topic of current interest in Illinois: How to Solve the Budget and Pension Crisis With One Simple Step. If you would like to have him present either program, contact him directly, at firstname.lastname@example.org.