In a recent WJ opinion piece, published in the July 1 issue of Viewpoints [Rauner’s Right, Harmon’s Wrong], I questioned some of state Sen. Don Harmon’s arguments concerning Gov. Rauner’s agenda [Rauner’s vision harms the middle class, June 3]. One response to my viewpoint by Al Popowits complained about using Wisconsin’s economic growth as a good example of how to stimulate state growth, based on a Chicago Tribune article (6/29/15). Wisconsin’s unemployment rate as of April 2015 was 4.4% compared to 9.2% in January 2010 (BLS) even though it has not met expectations.
A true gauge of Wisconsin’s situation should be based on where that state would be without the stimulus made. Indiana may be a better example of how not raising taxes promotes growth. Popowits also states that Illinoisans will not move to Indiana, in part since Indiana’s sales tax is higher than Illinois’. Internet sites report the Indiana sales tax rate at 7% with most cities like Indianapolis also at 7%. Many Illinoisans face a 9% rate or higher. Indiana’s property taxes are considerably below what most Illinoisans face.
Popowits dismisses the argument that for many top educators, each annual pension amount is greater than the individual’s total contributions. As an example, in Palatine (District 15) one top educator receives $252,000 per year while his total contributions were $217,800. The individual was 57 when he retired and his expected total lifetime payout is almost $7.7 million. The Taxpayers Education Foundation identifies many other top educators with similar experiences. Obviously not all teachers receive this kind of treatment.
Regarding Illinois’ property tax, Don Harmon stated that property taxes are too high and hurt the middle class. If Mr. Popowits feels Harmon is right, then Rauner’s proposal of a property tax freeze which can be modified by a local referendum seems appropriate.
The author further complains about Illinois’ flat tax although Indiana has a flat tax and had significant growth. Undoubtedly, a graduated income tax that would have a significant impact on unfunded pensions would likely impact more than just the very wealthy. Raising taxes when the Illinois economy is still fragile is a risky proposition.
Another author (Fran Simpson) makes some of the same arguments but also claims that “states with right-to-work laws have greater poverty overall.” However, Indiana enacted a right-to-work provision in 2012 and based on the Tribune article cited above had a greater increase in private-sector employment than all the Midwest states cited in the article. Over 20 states have enacted such laws.
Neither Simpson nor Popowits addressed some of the unsubstantiated claims made by Harmon, including that while Harmon voted for the pension reform bill vetoed by the Illinois Supreme Court, he claims to be pro-union. Also the argument made by Harmon that Rauner’s agenda benefits his corporate pals and Wall Streeters.