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Let temporary income tax die

Published: Thu, February 13, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat: A recent BND headline posed the question: Will Illinois lawmakers extend the ‘temporary’ income tax? State Democratic leaders certainly will try. Gov. Pat Quinn argues that Illinois can’t get by without that extra tax money. His office predicts the state’s deficit would grow to $1.9 billion in 2015 and $4.1 billion in 2016 without it.

But lawmakers shouldn’t even be thinking about extending the tax.

There’s the credibility issue. They said the tax would be temporary. To go back on their word and make it permanent would be one more political lie, like telling people that lottery money would go to education — only to move out budgeted money as the lottery winnings moved in.

Beyond that, though, none of the things the temporary tax was going to fix have been fixed. The fiscal restraint that was promised didn’t materialize. Instead, the extra tax revenue was an excuse to put off tough decisions like pension reform and spending cuts. When the state got an unexpected revenue windfall last year, state officials immediately spent the money instead of paying down the backlog of bills. At year end those unpaid bills amounted to $7.6 billion.

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