A couple of interesting letters were published in the June 3 Viewpoints section of Wednesday Journal. Bill Barclay compared the responses of the governors and legislatures of Wisconsin and Minnesota when dealing with budget deficits. Wisconsin chose austerity. Minnesota chose stimulus. According to the letter, Minnesota chose the right path. Illinois also has a budget deficit and our governor champions austerity. He wants to chop and slash his way to prosperity.

Illinois state Senator Don Harmon wrote about the damage that Gov. Rauner’s funding cuts will cause the middle class. Likely Senator Harmon focused on the middle class because Oak Park and River Forest, where the Journal is published, has a population that views itself as predominantly middle class.

Rauner wants to cut by 50% the share of state income tax revenue that local municipalities receive. As Senator Harmon points out, that will result in “fewer firefighters and police officers, slow snow removal and more pesky potholes.” Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the Michigan Legislature did this to the city of Detroit when they were looking to force it into bankruptcy for politically racist reasons. Gov. Rauner wants the punishment to be more broadly felt.

Other cuts proposed by our governor include increasing the co-payments for low-income parents who receive child-care subsidies from the state. He also wants to refuse to accept any new applicants into the program. This means that poverty wage workers will not be able to afford child care.

Without specifying what income levels will be affected, Gov. Rauner says he wants to put income limits on the Community Care Program. This provides services to keep senior citizens in their homes rather than being sent to nursing home facilities. To be sure, the middle class will suffer, but the poor, young and old will bear the brunt.

Gov. Rauner doesn’t want to discuss raising additional revenue until the state legislature embraces his agenda. He wants the leaders of the various municipalities who have been threatened with the loss of their share of the state income tax to pressure our legislature. As Sen. Harmon pointed out, “The only people who benefit from Governor Rauner’s agenda are his corporate pals.”

In his letter, Harmon proposes “a fair income tax.” Those with higher incomes pay higher rates, while those with lower income pay lower rates.” Seems reasonable, but it will take a constitutional amendment to enact.

Another potential source of revenue is the financial transaction tax. This is a small tax that would apply to high frequency traders working through the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Options exchange. This LaSalle Street tax would raise needed revenue from highly speculative and risky gambling. Essentially it would be a Chicago casino tax on the financial elite.

Want to discuss? Join in the “Stop the Chop!” community forum at Grace Episcopal Church at 924 Lake St. in Oak Park on Monday, June 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. to discuss funding human needs. 

These are not other people’s problems.

Tom Broderick

Oak Park

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