Thorner: Taxes out of control and out of bounds

December 4, 2013

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

ThBy Nancy Thorner – 

CNS News reported in October of this year that according to the U.S. Treasury the government’s federal debt had jumped by $409 billion. This equals approximately $3,546 for each of the Census Bureau’s estimated 114,663,000 U.S. households, and makes October’s spending the largest one-month jump in debt in this nation’s history.

What is troubling is that Congress is not currently restrained by a debt limit. Since October 17 when Congress enacted the Continuing Resolution (CR) with a deal that ended the government shutdown and pushed the debt ceiling level to February 7, 2014, no set dollar amount exists to restrict spending.

With nothing to stop legislators from piling even more spending and debt on taxpayers before February 7, 2014, it is folly to believe that legislators will restrain their spending, nor have they done so. Noted was how an additional $409 billion of debt was accrued through the end of October. While on October 17 the debt subjected to limit stood at $16,699,396,000,000, just $25 million shy of the legal limit of $16,699,421,095,673.60, by October 31 the debt now subject to limit had grown to $17,108,378,000,000.

Troubling is that even with this nation’s credit card maxed out (along with taxpayers’ wallets), Washington aims to continue its spending spree.  Instead of addressing future debt by controlling the growth in entitlement spending and enforcing lower levels of spending, the budget conference committee is considering an option that could increase spending by up to an additional $100 billion; that is, if a compromise deal can be fashioned to bust the sequestration spending caps by up to $100 billion.

An increase in user fees (really a disguised tax increase) would be employed to offset mandatory spending with necessary revenue.  Although gimmicks are nothing new in Washington, D.C., raising user fees to pay for more spending is what has helped fuel our now $17.2 trillion national debt.

State Government:
Not only is the federal government at a tipping point financially, but Illinois has already reached its tipping point.  Consider this Statement of Position from Illinois Treasurer, Dan Rutherford:
Troubling numbers:
  •   Illinois taxpayers’ debt from borrowing = $44.3 billion
  •   Illinois taxpayers’ unpaid bills = $8 billion
  •   Illinois’ unfunded pension and retiree health care liabilities = $140

Each Illinois family shoulders this debt = over $40,000 per household Moody’s rates Illinois as the worst credit risk of all the states in the nation, which raises the cost of borrowing money, which, in turn, adds billions of dollar in the repayment of bond issuances.

The following dreary picture of Illinois was painted by Reboot Illinois on November 18:
All of Illinois’ neighboring states were in the top half of Chief Executive Magazine’s 2012 list of best states for business.  Illinois was rated third worst.  The state’s unemployment rate, consistently the highest in the region, is evidence of that ranking’s accuracy [Since 2008, Illinois has lost the third most jobs by state in the country].  Businesses in Illinois suffer under some of the highest workers compensation insurance rates in the country, and in 2011 they saw their income tax rate jump from 4.8 percent to 7 percent — a 46 percent increase [Illinois’ Corporate tax rank is now 45th in the nation].

Later on today Illinois legislators will address in a one-day special session a pension reform deal crafted by the Illinois House and the Senate.  Numerous reports about the bill leave much to be desired, making today’s exercise seemingly geared to convince the pubic that legislators are finally taking the state’s $100 billion pension shortfall seriously.

According to a report by Ted Dabrowski, Vice President of Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute, House speaker Mike Madigan’s latest proposal is just the next in a long line of disastrous pension maneuvers and does nothing more than delay real reform and keep Illinois in a chronic state of  crisis.

In typical Illinois fashion, little advance information was shared with the media, the public, and legislators about a bill so critical to the financial well-being of this state.  Just what might be the language of a bill that is being kept under wraps until only hours before legislators cast their votes?

Local Government:

In addition to federal and state tax obligations, there are also local taxing bodies that make financial demands.  Significant is that Illinois has more “local” governments than any other state in the country, 6,963, which is one-thousand more than any other state when factoring in state population.  As it is, Illinois residents pay the second-highest-owner-occupied property tax rates in the country, and their state is the third most corrupt.

Having so many units of government at the local level put taxpayers on the hook for unnecessary layers of government that duplicate services and cause taxes to soar.  It is not uncommon for Illinois residents (61% of them do) to live under the burden of three levels of local government (municipal, township or county government), resulting in a huge outlay of funds allocated for salaries.

Lake County in northern Illinois, Thorner’s home county, ranks No. 1 for the Midwest region on Forbes’ list of U.S. counties with the highest property taxes, the average being $6,052.

Thorner also lives under a township government, that of Shields, in addition to her Village of Lake Bluff.  In Shields Township a whole department exists to handle the scattered township roads and bridges whose trucks criss-cross the same area when snow plowing far fewer mile, than do municipal trucks.

Also adding to the tax burden at the local level are the high number of school districts in Illinois, 911 in all.  Two hundred of them are single school districts. These single districts (Lake Bluff Elementary School District 65 is a single district) cost more per student to educate than do multi-school districts.

Federal, state, and local tax liability has become a burden to many.  Often asked is how much is too much to pay in taxes?   Although little can be done to fight taxation at the state and federal levels, citizens have more of a say at the local level.  Unfortunately many officials are opposed to doing away with the positions they hold, either elected or appointed, even if they hold positions that duplicate work done by others.

And so our tax burden continues to grow to keep the hungry beast that is government fed, with many legislators indifferent about the way taxpayers’ money is wasted and spent as long as it suits their own political interests to be re-elected, thereby ensuring that they will continue to enjoy all the attractive perks they have grown so accustomed to receiving over the years.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013 at 01:27 PM | Permalink

 

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