Rauner's vision harms the middle class

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State Sen. Don Harmon

Last week, Governor Bruce Rauner released a statement outlining his views on Illinois government and our state budget. I agree with the governor on some of the problems the state faces: Our pensions need to be funded and our property taxes are too high.

Unfortunately, we don't begin to agree on solutions.

Let's start with pensions. I voted for a major reform two years ago. The Supreme Court just struck it down, ruling that once someone is hired by the state, pension benefits cannot be diminished.

Yet the governor continues to call for diminished benefits "going forward." We need pension reform, but we'll never get there with a governor who ignores the Constitution, the Supreme Court and reality.

Yes, property taxes are too high. They're also extremely unfair to hard-working families who end up getting hit much harder than the wealthy.

I'm working on a solution to provide tax fairness for the middle class.

My solution is a fair income tax, one where higher rates would apply to higher incomes and lower rates would apply to lower incomes. It's logical and allows middle class families to keep more of their hard-earned money. Nearly every state that borders Illinois already has such a system.

What solutions does the governor offer? None that work for the working families.

He slashes funding for our communities and freezes property taxes. That results in fewer firefighters and police officers, slow snow removal and more pesky potholes.

Illinois deserves better.

It's clear who Gov. Rauner is looking out for, and it's not regular families. Rauner's looking out for his Wall Street friends, the corporate millionaires and billionaires who don't want to pay their fair share.

More alarming is that the governor refuses to move forward on a balanced budget until we approve his agenda. He's holding the entire state hostage until he gets what he wants, and in the meantime he's putting real families and real programs in jeopardy. This isn't leadership. This is bullying.

His plan cripples unions and lowers the wages and benefits of working families.

He wants to make it easier for employers to refuse to pay injured workers.

He wants to make it harder to collect unemployment if your company lays you off.

He wants to keep the minimum wage lower than the cost of living.

That's class warfare, aimed squarely at the middle class. The only people who benefit from Gov. Rauner's agenda are his corporate pals.

I'm willing to work with the governor to balance the budget. What I won't do is dismantle the middle class, no matter what the governor threatens.

The middle class is not a "special interest." The middle class is the key to a healthy, thriving Illinois.

Reader Comments

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Peter Giles from River Forest  

Posted: June 14th, 2015 5:37 PM

Well said Senator; "We need pension reform, but we'll never get there with a governor (or insert- Don Harmon) who ignores the Constitution, the Supreme Court and reality". Oops that was your proposal in 2010 you mentioned in the preceding paragraph of your letter. Tax us now while you can, most of us without a pension (private sector) are leaving upon retirement......

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: June 9th, 2015 10:08 AM

What is clear is that your boss Mike Madigan and you have been leading us into a huge hole and now you are desperate to lay the blame on someone else.

Mark Jacklin from Bensenville  

Posted: June 8th, 2015 1:30 PM

First, I AM a constituent of yours Don, and second, I FILLED out your recent "push" survey. You are just pushing the same line, preserving the corrupted, lopsided policies that have been implemented by your ilk AND YOU in Illinois. The feeding trough can't be filled as full - because these squealing pigs are eating us out of house and home. Time to slaughter a few hogs and have them feed us. Your support as evinced by this, your most recent screed, PROVES you are part of the problem, and have been since 2003. And your income tax scheme shows you want MORE and MORE - there are subtle and expensive traps hidden in THAT proposal, which more and more people are becoming hip to. There's an old farmer's tale about an ijiot feeding his mule sawdust to cut feed costs, and finally complains when his mule up n died on him., ya see - all that feed he took away from the mule was feeding the pigs. The tax increase proved that you cannot be trusted to administer public funds, and I look forward to working for ANY opponent that has the stones to run against you in the next election. YOU are GENUINELY a MAJOR PART of the PROBLEM in Illinois.

George Waldron  

Posted: June 8th, 2015 7:43 AM

I support the Governor. Taxes in this state are out of control. My real estate taxes have tripled in the last 10 years.

Bernie Fife  

Posted: June 7th, 2015 11:14 PM

==More alarming is that the governor refuses to move forward on a balanced budget until we approve his agenda. == So quit being an obstructionist and fricken' approve it already. If and when we elect you governor we'll listen to your agenda. Until then, do the people's work if you want to keep getting a paycheck. You work for us, you're not some freelancer who gets to do as he pleases. Maybe you need a reminder when the next election rolls around?

Pete Prokopowicz from Oak Park  

Posted: June 7th, 2015 10:46 PM

Senator Harmon, didn't Illinois just try to fix its pension and delinquent payment problems with a large income tax increase? And yet the pensions funds deteriorated further and the state is still behind in its payments. You have shown that you can not be trusted to use higher taxes to fix these problems.

Jay Butler from Oak Park  

Posted: June 7th, 2015 9:21 PM

I am not a supporter of Bruce Rauner and did not vote for him; however I am infuriated by Don Harmon's letter. It adds exactly nothing constructive to the debate, it is simply a list of clichés and political talking points. The only constructive proposal in the entire thing is one sentence where he says he is in favor of a "fair income tax". Fine. That is a reasonable idea. How about some more details? How much is a "fair" income tax? How much money will it raise? Will it be enough to meet Illinois's outstanding pension debt? How long will it take to fully fund the pensions? What level of spending will it support for education, infrastructure, and the other responsibilities of state government? What is Senator Harmon's position on property tax increases or freezes? In between all the clichés about the "middle class", and "class warfare", Senator Harmon accuses the Governor of a lack of leadership. I would like to see some leadership from my elected Senator and his colleagues in state government. It has been lacking for far too long!

Mary H. Moore from st paul  

Posted: June 7th, 2015 7:45 PM

It is not the governors fault he has to clean up the mess created by the Democrats. IL is just another Detroit, MI. Here in MN they have a huge surplus and yet the Democratic governor wants to spend it. Il until you have a referendum to reform the pensions, you are never going to get out if the hole.

Dean Rogers from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2015 6:57 PM

What is "unfair" about the current tax system?The more you make,the more you pay,pretty simple. Make 50,000-pay $1875 Make $80,00-pay $3000 Make $100,000-pay $3750. Except ,of course,for those tax-free pensions. By the way,Senator,the last time you raised taxes,it was going to pay off all our debts,get the pensions up to snuff,and improve the state's financial situation.Fat chance!You and your cohorts couldn't spend the money fast enough.The only way to restore some sanity,and stop the outflow of residents,(how many congressional seats have we lost since 1990;3,4?),is to spend less.Period!

Dave Slade  

Posted: June 4th, 2015 4:36 PM

"Rauner's vision harms the middle class". Mr. Harmon, you've done your share over the years also. Grow some nuggets and stand up for the middle class which will be the group most hurt by your tax increases to get this state out of the pension mess you're "leadership" has put is in.

Nick Polido  

Posted: June 4th, 2015 1:30 PM

Please Beam me up Scotty! The last time I looked, Governor Rauner hasn't been an Illinois legislator since 2003. The only class warfare being waged is that of these politicians blaming this Governor for our pathetic State of affairs! We have problems and these legislators want to lead everyone to believe that the fat cats on Wall Street are responsible for all our Ills. I didn't read of any mention regarding the rampant corruption in Senator Harmon's missive.! Never a fan for term limits but the time has come to clean house of these long term politicians that have gotten us into this sorry state of affairs.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 4th, 2015 12:11 PM

Governor Rauner certainly did not campaign on a promise of reducing assistance programs that benefit seniors and disabled people, increasing copayments for state subsidized child care, closing juvenile correction centers and halting grants to state parks. He presented himself to voters as an outsider who would work to address to the state's pension crisis. Instead, he's handing out favors to corporate interests by demanding a massive overhaul of workers' compensation insurance and other pro-business measures that will negatively impact middle class workers.

Matt Cotten from Oak Park  

Posted: June 4th, 2015 11:42 AM

I attended a previous town hall where Senator Harmon confirmed all state pensions payments were made while he was in office and tried his best to address concerns of the most vulnerable that will be affected. A constitutional amendment will never happen for something that only applies to state workers. The fair tax is one of the best possible solutions because our state's flat tax is one of the lowest in the nation while our property taxes are very high. It's fairly obvious that pensions are now becoming a thing of the past, especially in the private sector. Although unions are responsible for many benefits we all enjoy, the corrupt leadership was awarded a sweet deal that is just not sustainable. So I hope all you retirees enjoy your pensions because I will be paying it for it for a long time and future generations will not be receiving the same level of city and state benefits that you did.

Bob Simpson  

Posted: June 4th, 2015 11:31 AM

I have to agree with Margaret. The Senator does represent people who are not middle class. The social service cuts Mr. Rauner proposes will be far more painful for them to bear.

Dave Slade from Oak Park  

Posted: June 4th, 2015 9:20 AM

What needs to happen with pensions is that the state needs to accept the fact that the problem won't go away and it needs to reduce costs and fund pensions with the money you have or will have ASAP. We have all paid our portion - Springfield and Chicago chose to take "pension holidays" and not fund what they should have. That should not fall on taxpayers a second time. Mr. Harmon, you are part of the reason that happened and you need to address why these funds were not paid as they should have. The next step is a constitutional amendment that begins a 401K-type program for all state employees hired as of a certain date in the future. The state can match 3%, 6%, 9% - anything. The next thing that needs to happen is that school districts that have upped administrative pay for employees in the last years of employment need to be known and those districts need to have their school boards replaced with those who don't gaming the system at the cost of the public. The last thing that needs to happen is that "legislators" such as Harmon, Madigan, Cullerton, and all the others who put unions ahead of others in this state need to go. Unions have served their purpose and they are killing this state.

Margaret Field  

Posted: June 3rd, 2015 4:53 PM

What about the poor, Senator ? The Rauner budget hurts the poor even more than the middle class. But no politician speaks for the poor! The cuts to basic services for the poor are creating extreme hardship and suffering. Please don't pander to the middle class when it is the poor who are being scapegoated by this Governor. If you don't speak for the least of us, who will?

Alice Desai from Oak Park  

Posted: June 3rd, 2015 4:27 PM

Yes, we will not go the way of Wisconsin. The wealthy must pay their fair share.

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