Some Wisconsinites have been pointing to our neighbors to the south as an example of fiscal responsibility hoping to follow their model. Those who think that Illinois is the way to go should think again and take a page out of Wisconsin’s book.
The Illinois budgetary record is not pretty. Heading into 2011, Illinois faced a budget deficit of over $13 billion and passed a massive tax increase both to personal income and corporate income tax rates. They’re still broke. With a pension system in shambles, Illinois also borrowed massive amounts of money to make this year’s pension payment.
In September, Illinois laid off 1,900 public employees and closed seven state facilities. Also, much to the chagrin of Wisconsinites who drive to or through Illinois, toll rates in the state have increased on average by 88%.
Illinois’ budgetary moves failed miserably to solve their problems and the state is still projected to end this fiscal year on June 30th with a budget gap upwards of half a billion dollars and unfunded obligations of up to $8 billion.
As a result, this past week, Moody’s lowered Illinois’ credit rating, giving the Prairie State the lowest rating of any state in the nation.
Contrast that failure with Wisconsin’s recent successes. Wisconsin’s budgetary reforms have set the state up for growth and prosperity. Heading into 2011, Wisconsin faced a budget deficit of $3.6 billion. Wisconsin boldly passed its now famous Budget Repair Bill that required public employee contributions for healthcare and pensions. Like it or not, the Budget Repair Bill and other measures eliminated Wisconsin’s $3.6 billion deficit without one-time budget fixes or accounting gimmicks.
Perhaps more importantly, the Budget Repair Bill also gave local governments more flexibility to deal with their budget challenges. As a result, property taxes are flat or down across the state of Wisconsin.
Because of real, systemic fiscal reform, Wisconsin did not raise taxes, has its pension fully funded, and has a solid credit rating. Thanks to the contributions for healthcare and pensions, Wisconsin did not have to lay off public employees.
It is clear that Wisconsin is on the right track, while Illinois is giving Greece a run for their money when it comes to economic calamity. The fiscal roadmap ahead for Illinois actually leads north. Taxpayers in Illinois would do well to push for similar reforms to help grow their economy and pull it back from the brink of disaster.
Matt Batzel is the Executive Director for Wisconsin of American Majority, the nation’s leading national conservative grassroots training organization. To learn more about American Majority visit www.AmericanMajority.org.