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Who’s the Real Carnival Barker?

Gov. Pritzker has a bad habit of calling people who point out failures of public policy in Illinois “Carnival Barkers.” This would have to include every major newspaper, state, and national think tank, and the state’s own Committee on Government Forecasting and Accountability.

But, what really is a Carnival Barker? It’s someone trying to sell you a chance at a game that is rigged or a sideshow that is deceptive. I think that term, Carnival Barker, more aptly fits Governor Pritzker, especially after the speech he gave on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Governor Pritzker gave his combined State of the State and Budget Address in front of members of both the House and Senate. Above is his Tweet with his accomplishments over the last 4 years.

With typical pomp and circumstance, a bi-partisan escort committee met the Governor at the back of the chamber to escort him to the podium. The media were lined up in the galley, ready to transmit and offer comments. Members of both chambers sat politely with a copy of the Governor’s speech in hand - and then, the show began. The Governor read off the teleprompter, with well-rehearsed inflection, the talking points written by a staffer.

In his speech, which you can read in full here, he began rattling off his financial accomplishments over the last four years. Six credit upgrades, $8 billion in back bills paid off, four balance budgets (not true), money set aside for the rainy day fund, additional payment to the pension funds, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Nowhere in his speech did he truthfully address - HOW DID IT GET THIS BAD? Or where did the money come from that allowed him to get this all done in four years?

Mike Madigan, Special Interests, and Democrat control for two decades created the problem. Some Big Government Republicans share in the blame as well, for going along with more debt, taxes, and spending – including those who voted for Pritzker’s first budget in 2019 and the tax hikes that went along with that budget.

Except for the Rauner years, Democrats controlled each chamber and the Governorship since January 2003. During that time, they accumulated debt, borrowed to make pension payments, lied on bond documents, shorted school money every year, and piled up unpaid bills.

It got so bad that retired politicians went into business to buy up accounts receivable of state vendors, who were in financial binds so that they could collect the 12% interest on bills when the state didn’t pay on time.

Back then, if a state legislator went to any event, a dentist, vendor to prisons, disability provider, hospital or others would ask when they were going to get paid by the state. The whole situation was a travesty – and one created by Democrat mismanagement. Rauner had almost no control over the situation. Madigan held most of the cards, and the cards Rauner had, he played badly. Madigan intentionally created the two-year budget impasse to screw Rauner. The Democrats know this and so does the media. And so does Pritzker.

So, here comes Pritzker after the 2017 32% permanent tax increase, the borrowing of $6 billion to pay down back bills, the doubling of gas taxes in 2019, the increase in a dozen other fees, and then the nearly $200 billion that flowed into the state for federal COVID relief, including over $8 billion that the state received directly. (Remember, the situation was so bad, Senate President Harmon asked for a federal bailout of $42 billion at the start of the pandemic.) They were desperate in 2020 for some sort of bailout. They got it with COVID.

In his budget response, State Rep. Chris Miller summed it up best:

“Governor Pritzker took credit for cleaning up 20 years of Democrat unbalanced budgets by using federal COVID relief funds.”

Pritzker’s suggestion that he is a financial wizard is a lie. This year he has proposed the largest budget in the history of the state – nearly $50 billion. He is pouring nearly a billion more into our K-12 education systems and preschool for all, and higher education.

But there is NO proof that more money begets better outcomes.

Looking at just early childhood education, here’s an excerpt from an NPR article reporting on the study of 2,990 kids who went to free public preschool programs in Tennessee,

"Farran and her co-authors at Vanderbilt University followed both groups of children all the way through sixth grade. At the end of their first year, the kids who went to pre-K scored higher on school readiness — as expected.
But after third grade, they were doing worse than the control group. And at the end of sixth grade, they were doing even worse. They had lower test scores, were more likely to be in special education and were more likely to get into trouble in school, including serious trouble like suspensions."

Before spending any more money, we need to study what’s best for children. If you read last week’s newsletter, you are also aware of the failures in K-12 in Illinois.

No worries – Pritzker and his Democrats will continue to throw your money away. Just light it on fire.

I’m glad our economy is producing record tax receipts. I’m skeptical if it will continue, and our state agency COGFA is too.

The February 2023 Economic Outlook report by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability is a comprehensive outlook on our state’s economy and is built in conjunction with Moody’s. Click here to read the whole report.

Here are excerpts from just the opening summary:

  • As it has in most of the country, the unemployment rate has been relatively flat for the past few quarters. Illinois’ jobless rate averaged 4.7% in the fourth quarter, compared with 3.8% in the region and 3.6% in the nation. The labor force is up from a year earlier, but it has been contracting since mid-2022 and remains extremely depressed compared with a few years earlier.

  • Stronger-than-expected revenues and federal relief from the American Rescue Plan have put state finances on a firmer footing. The state has repaid a loan from the Federal Reserve and is using some of its budget surplus to eliminate its backlog of unpaid bills and add to the rainy-day fund. These developments helped Illinois draw upgrades to its credit rating and outlook from multiple ratings agencies. Still, a recession could cut into revenues, forcing tough spending decisions, and an ongoing market downturn could further damage the pension system’s weak financial health.

  • The economy will advance more slowly during the year ahead and Illinois’ lead in the Midwest will diminish. Drivers such as white-collar industries, manufacturing and logistics will hold off on significant job additions. Payrolls are on track to return to their pre-pandemic peak in 2024, later than in the U.S. but not unusual for the region.

  • The nascent housing market correction will be milder than in the rest of the country. High inflation, combined with rising interest rates and a tightening of financial conditions, poses the greatest risk in the near term. The state will be a step behind the Midwest average and a few steps behind the nation in job and income growth over the long term.

  • Weakening population trends and deep-rooted fiscal problems such as mounting pension obligations and a shrinking tax base represent the biggest hurdles to stronger economic performance. Persistent out-migration will weigh on the strength of employment and income gains.

COGFA is overseen by a bi-partisan group of legislators. Do they read their own material? Did Pritzker read it?

More importantly, other states who have received additional tax money are not spending it all, like Illinois is; they are permanently cutting taxes.

Both of our neighbors to the east and west, Iowa and Indiana, have passed legislation to PERMANENTLY cut income taxes for their residents. In Illinois, Democrats are doing the opposite by proposing legislation to increase taxes. THAT’s insanity. There was no mention of property tax relief other than Pritzker falsely mentioning that property taxes were coming down. He probably missed the news about Little Village residents upset over the increases in their property taxes. Maybe he will join them for a town hall being hosted by a group of non-profits.


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