Budget proposal exposes problems with Illinois’ unfair income tax system

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 22, 2012

CONTACT: Mike Truppa, (312) 296-1956, mike.truppa@seiuhcil.org

In response to Governor Quinn’s budget address, Keith Kelleher, President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana, issued the following statement:

SPRINGFIELD, IL – In painting a bleak picture of the state’s finances, the governor’s budget proposal is another glaring illustration of why Illinois must make the rich pay their fair share in income tax.

As long as our state is a place where millionaires and greedy corporations exploit loopholes to pay effectively less in taxes than the middle class and lower-income families, we will be doomed to an endless cycle of funding shortages that lead to the kind of crippling cuts proposed today.

Just two months ago, Illinois lawmakers doled out more than $100 million in tax breaks to CME Group and Sears Holding Corp., purportedly to keep both employers in the state.   Together, this giveaway totals a staggering $1 billion in the first 10 years, alone.  CME earned $900 million in profits last year.  For its part, Sears took its tax break and promptly announced store closures that will decimate its workforce.  That bait-and-switch exemplifies on how the state’s current tax policy makes winners of the rich and losers of the 99 percent.

And now those losses appear destined to mount.  The proposed $2.7 billion reduction in Medicaid obligations could drastically reduce access to quality health care for working families already struggling to make ends meet in a faltering economy.   It also raises questions about whether the safety net hospitals that support working class communities might suddenly find their own survival at risk.  We need to protect these vital resources that provide critical care and jobs in our communities.

After the last several years of budget cuts failed to solve our fiscal woes, we should know by now that a renewal of this approach is going to yield the same result.  In fact, if the economy is going to going to get back on its feet, we must stand up for working families – not cut them off at the knees.

We should not in good conscience heap $100 million in tax breaks on a financial colossus like CME, or a retain empire like Sears, while forcing families of modest means to give up even more in a climate of economic deprivation.

The Civic Federation and others who have advocated for drastic cuts should be asked why it’s fair to make working families sacrifice their health care and other vital needs while asking nothing more from the greedy CEOs and other corporate executives who caused our economy to implode.

This skewed approach can cause a chain reaction of inequality for the middle class and working families:  They’re penalized first by an unfair tax system that goes easy on the rich, and again by budget cuts needed to compensate for what the rich don’t pay.

If we’re ever going to balance our budget in Springfield, we need to restore balance to the discussion about how to do it.  That begins by shifting the focus from a cuts-only ideology to a core principle of equality:  making the rich pay their fair share in taxes.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana unites more than 91,000 healthcare, home care, nursing home and child care workers across two states in the fight to raise standards across industries, to strengthen the political voice for working families and for access to quality, affordable care for all families.