Fiscal Policy

Illinois Policy Institute: ‘Illinois Is Exporting Its Higher-Income Earners’

From time to time, I’ll talk about the Illinois Policy Institute, a Chicago-based non-partisan research organization that works “to make Illinois first in economic outlook and job creation.” The last time I blogged about the Institute, they had just released a report about Illinois having the most units of local government of any state in the country.

I happened to stop by their website the other day and something disturbing caught my eye. On March 27, Michael Lucci, the Institute’s Director of Jobs and Growth, talked about the state’s tax structure driving away businesses. He wrote:

There’s no telling how many businesses have left or expanded elsewhere over the years.

Caterpillar Inc. announced this week that it will expand in Georgia, AM manufacturing is leaving for Indiana and OfficeMax Inc. famously decided on Florida over Illinois.

That’s exactly what millions of people are doing. On net, 1.25 million more people have left Illinois than entered since 1985. Not only that: The average taxpayer who leaves Illinois earns $65,400. The average taxpayer who enters Illinois earns $56,700.

It’s clear what is happening. Illinois is exporting its higher-income earners, who are also job creators and investors…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Regular readers of Survival And Prosperity shouldn’t be too surprised at these findings.

Back on January 9, I talked about a press release associated with United Van Lines’ 37th Annual Migration Study, which found Illinois was the number two outbound state for a second year in a row in 2013.

And on February 27, I discussed a February 14 Crain’s Chicago Business piece that said Cook County lost about 13,000 residents with six-figure household incomes to other places during the Great Recession.

Regrettably, the politicians and their mouthpieces will keep peddling the spin about how individuals and businesses are tripping over themselves to move into the state. Meanwhile, the exodus from the “Land of Lincoln” will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Lucci, Michael. “Illinois’ recipe for exodus: 7 different tax structures proposed for 2015.” Illinois Policy Institute. 27 Mar. 2014. (http://www.illinoispolicy.org/illinois-recipe-for-exodus-7-different-tax-structures-proposed-for-2015/?utm_source=outbrain). 17 Apr. 2014.

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Shocking: Illinois ‘Pole Tax’ Fails To Bring In Projected Revenue

How many times have we seen politicians push some new controversial tax (often a “sin” tax), telling consitutents tons of new money will be coming in if its implemented.

And how many times has this turned out not to be the case, with actual revenue collected nowhere near what was “projected.”

Still, the dubious tax remains on the books as yet one more financial burden on the citizens.

Enter the Illinois “Pole Tax.”

From The State Journal-Register (Springfield, Illinois) website on August 18, 2012:

Strip clubs in Illinois will have to hand over a share of their revenues, starting in 2013, to help fund programs to prevent sexual assault and counsel victims under a law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn on Saturday.

The measure establishes a new tax on the clubs that will raise up to $1 million a year, helping to reverse several years of funding cuts for rape crisis centers. The legislation has also sparked debate over how strong of a link can be drawn between strip clubs and violent crime, and whether those businesses should pay out to fight the problems…

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, will place an annual surcharge on strip clubs that have live nude dancing and permit alcohol. Businesses could pay $3 per customer or pay a graduated amount based on their sales. The money will go to a special fund devoted to preventing sexual violence and counseling its victims…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Fast forward to this morning on the same website, which now reads:

Illinois officials say a strip club tax has generated less than 40 percent of the money that was expected when the surcharge was approved.

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports the “pole tax” raised about $380,000 in 2013. That’s far less than the $1 million predicted when the measure passed the General Assembly in 2012…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Like with other sin “taxes,” one might wonder if the Illinois “Pole Tax” is really about restoring funding for rape crisis centers in the state, or is actually meant to drive out the “nudie bars” from Illinois.


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Come to think of it, I wonder how much money Cook County raked in with its $25 per-gun tax on firearm purchases after a full year of being on the books. That “Violence Tax” went into effect on April 1, 2013.

Hal Dardick reported on the Chicago Tribune website back on October 31, 2012:

The gun tax would raise $600,000, Budget Director Andrea Gibson said…

We’ll see, as I suspect someone will be publicizing that actual number soon.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

“Illinois strip club tax will fund rape crisis centers.” The State-Journal Register. 18 Aug. 2012. (http://www.sj-r.com/x1167780465/Illinois-strip-club-tax-will-fund-rape-crisis-centers). 16 Apr. 2014.

“Strip club tax brings in much less than expected.” Associated Press. 16 Apr. 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140416/NEWS/140419556). 16 Apr. 2014.

Dardick, Hal. “Preckwinkle drops bullet tax, keeps gun tax.” Chicago Tribune. 31 Oct. 2012. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-preckwinkle-drops-bullet-tax-keeps-gun-tax-20121031,0,3962662.story). 16 Apr. 2014.

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Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 Firearms, Fiscal Policy, Government, Taxes No Comments

CBO: Updated 2014-2024 Budget Projections Show Substantially Rising Budget Shorfalls, Federal Debt

That idea that the U.S. could someday resemble a “banana republic” might not be too far off the mark. From the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office website today:

As it usually does each spring, CBO has updated the baseline budget projections that it released earlier in the year…

Between 2015 and 2024, annual budget shortfalls are projected to rise substantially—from a low of $469 billion in 2015 to about $1 trillion from 2022 through 2024—mainly because of the aging population, rising health care costs, an expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance, and growing interest payments on federal debt. CBO expects that cumulative deficits during that decade will equal $7.6 trillion if current laws remain unchanged. As a share of GDP, deficits are projected to rise from 2.6 percent in 2015 to about 4 percent near the end of the 10-year period. By comparison, the deficit averaged 3.1 percent of GDP over the past 40 years and 2.3 percent in the 40 years before fiscal year 2008, when the most recent recession began. From 2015 through 2024, both revenues and outlays are projected to be greater than their 40-year averages as a percentage of GDP (see the figure below)…

In CBO’s baseline projections, federal debt held by the public reaches 78 percent of GDP by 2024, up from 72 percent at the end of 2013 and twice the 39 percent average of the past four decades (see the figure below). As recently as the end of 2007, federal debt equaled just 35 percent of GDP

Such high and rising debt would have serious negative consequences. Federal spending on interest payments would increase considerably when interest rates rose to more typical levels. Moreover, because federal borrowing would eventually raise the cost of investment by businesses and other entities, the capital stock would be smaller, and productivity and wages lower, than if federal borrowing was more limited. In addition, high debt means that lawmakers would have less flexibility than they otherwise would to use tax and spending policies to respond to unexpected challenges. Finally, high debt increases the risk of a fiscal crisis in which investors would lose so much confidence in the government’s ability to manage its budget that the government would be unable to borrow at affordable rates…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You can read the entire assessment and view the complete document on the CBO website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Illinois Millionaire Tax Halted For Now

Remember that “millionaire tax” Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) had been pushing which would have affected an estimated 13,000 or so millionaires residing in the state?

It’s toast for now.

Doug Finke reported on The State Journal-Register (Springfield) website yesterday afternoon:

House Speaker Michael Madigan has pulled the plug on his proposed constitutional amendment to impose a surcharge on incomes over $1 million a year.

The Chicago Democrat made the move Wednesday after it became obvious the amendment couldn’t muster the 71 votes it needed in the House to pass.

Although Democrats hold 71 seats in the House, not all of them were on board with the amendment…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Despite the setback, many Illinois Democrats in office will tell their supporters that they at least tried to “spread the wealth around” more in moving the legislation this far.

As the economic climate deteriorates nationally, I expect to see even more of these targeted income tax hikes being proposed- along with its reintroduction in “Madiganistan.”

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Finke, Doug. “Madigan dropping plan to tax Illinois millionaires.” The State Journal-Register. 9 Apr. 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140409/NEWS/140409326/-1/json). 10 Apr. 2014.

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Cook County Residents To Get Hit With Tax Hikes Soon?

For a while now (last time being earlier this week), I told my girlfriend we were lucky to have escaped the fiscal debacle and revenue grab going on in the city of Chicago.

At the same time, I pointed out that as Cook County residents we’re still on the hook for the same type of nonsense.

Brian Slodysko reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website yesterday afternoon:

Hoping to ward off another credit rating downgrade, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said Wednesday that she will soon present a plan to reform the county’s underfunded pension system.

And she’s leaving the door open to hiking property, sales and other taxes.

When asked repeatedly about the possibility of tax increases, Preckwinkle responded: “We’re looking at all the options. Everything is on the table.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Slodysko added later in the piece:

Preckwinkle declined to discuss specifics, but she did say that any plan that goes before the Legislature will not have property tax increase language written into the bill

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Okaaay… so that means Preckwinkle’s not “leaving the door open” to hiking property taxes?

Regardless, based on what I see coming down the line for us, it’s only a matter of time.

Last summer, Cook County saw its bond rating lowered by one of the major credit rating agencies supposedly due to its public pension liabilities. I blogged on August 20, 2013:

In the wake of significantly downgrading the City of Chicago’s credit rating, bond credit rating giant Moody’s Investor Service lowered Cook County’s bond rating a notch last Friday. In a news release from the Moody’s website right before the weekend:

New York, August 16, 2013 — Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the rating on Cook County’s (IL) general obligation (GO) debt to A1 from Aa3, affecting $3.7 billion of general obligation debt. The outlook remains negative.

SUMMARY RATING RATIONALE

The downgrade of the GO rating reflects Cook County’s growing pension liabilities…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Stay tuned…

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Slodysko, Brian. “Preckwinkle won’t rule out tax increase to strike pension deal.” Chicago Sun-Times. 9 Apr. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/preckwinkle-wont-rule-out-tax-increase-strike-pension-deal/wed-04092014-523pm). 10 Apr. 2014.

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Chicago Public Pension Crisis Latest

Last Tuesday, I blogged about Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attempt to address some of the City’s public pension woes via larger contributions by City employees and $50 million tax increases for five straight years- beginning next year and continuing through 2019- for Chicago property owners.

There’s been a lot of chatter regarding this proposal and other pension “reform” activity today. Karen Pierog reported on the Reuters website:

Legislation to ease funding shortfalls in two of Chicago’s four retirement systems is a modestly positive credit step but not a permanent fix, Moody’s Investors Service said on Monday

Moody’s said that if enacted into law, the measure would immediately reduce the unfunded liabilities in the two funds.

“However, we expect that the (liability) would then escalate for a number of years before declining. Accrued liabilities would exceed plan assets for years to come, and if annual investment returns fall short of the assumed 7.5 percent, the risk of plan insolvency may well reappear,” the credit rating agency said in a report…

After breezing through an Illinois House committee on April 2, the bill has stalled. Moody’s said that even if the bill makes it out of the legislature, Governor Pat Quinn must sign it. The law would then face potential challenges to its legality under the Illinois constitution, which prohibits the impairment of retirement benefits for public sector workers…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So will the Illinois Governor and fellow Chicago Democrat sign off on Mayor Emanuel’s proposed legislation?

John Byrne and Monique Garcia reported on the Chicago Tribune website this afternoon:

Gov. Pat Quinn today came out against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to raise Chicago property taxes and cut retirement benefits as a way to shore up some of Chicago’s government worker pension systems.

The re-election seeking Democratic governor called the bill floating around Springfield “a sketch” that “kept changing by the hour” and blasted the property tax as a “lousy tax” because it is not based on the ability to pay…

“I don’t think that’s a good way to go,” Quinn said of hiking property taxes. “And I say it today and I’ll say it tomorrow, they’ve got to come up with a much better comprehensive approach to deal with this issue. But if they just think they are going to gouge property tax owners, no can do. We’re not going to go that way.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Now, as I pointed out in last week’s post about Chicago’s public pension crisis:

There’s still a state-required $600 million contribution due next year from the City to stabilize police and fire pension funds that this proposed property tax hike doesn’t address and has to be dealt with…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Plus, I read the following this morning by Chacour Koop on the website of The State Journal-Register (Springfield):

After addressing Illinois’ own employee pension crisis, lawmakers now face an equally challenging task with the state’s cities, as mayors demand help with underfunded police and firefighter pensions before the growing cost “chokes” budgets and forces local tax increases.

The nine largest cities in Illinois after Chicago have a combined $1.5 billion in unfunded debt to public safety workers’ pension systems. Police and fire retirement funds for cities statewide have an average of just 55 percent of the money needed to meet current obligations to workers and retirees…

The problems — a history of underfunding, the expansion of job benefits and the prospect of crushing future payments — mirror those that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel warned about when he asked the legislature for relief last week.

In 2016, state law requires cities to make required contribution increases — in some cases, more than an additional $1 million annually — so they’ll reach 90 percent funding by 2040. If they don’t, the state will begin doing it for them, diverting grant money now used by cities elsewhere directly into the pension funds…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Just like the Illinois General Assembly- dominated by Democrats- barely passed legislation on December 3, 2013, that was touted as a “fix” for the state’s $100 billion public pension crisis (it isn’t), something tells me an accommodation may be reached with fellow Democrats running the City of Chicago so they don’t have to pay the full amount of the state-required $600 million contribution due next year to stabilize police and fire pension funds.

That goes for those large Illinois communities as well.

Watch all the back-patting go on should that “fix” materialize as well.

And the inevitable “blowback” down the road.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

UPDATE: From Fran Spielman over on the Chicago Sun-Times website early Tuesday morning:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and House Speaker Michael Madigan Monday stripped out controversial language from city pension legislation that had authorized the City Council to impose a property-tax hike, putting the stalled measure back on the fast-track at the state Capitol.

Madigan, D-Chicago, filed an amendment to Senate Bill 1922 after the House adjourned Monday without taking any action on the stalled legislation. Sources now expect the legislation to be voted upon as early as Tuesday.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Sources:

Pierog, Karen. “UPDATE 1-Proposed Chicago pension changes positive step but no fix -Moody’s.” Reuters. 7 Apr. 2014. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/07/usa-chicago-moodys-idUSL2N0MZ1AP20140407). 7 Apr. 2014.

Byrne, John and Garcia, Monique. “Quinn blasts Emanuel’s property tax hike for pensions.” Chicago Tribune. 7 Apr. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/clout/chi-quinn-blasts-emanuels-property-tax-hike-for-pensions-20140407,0,5432729.story). 7 Apr. 2014.

Koop, Chacour. “Illinois’ next pension issue: Police, firefighter funds.” Associated Press. 6 Apr. 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140406/NEWS/140409562/-1/json/?tag=1). 7 Apr. 2014.

Spielman, Fran. “Analysis: Rahm’s pension bill revisions solve—and create—problems.” Chicago Sun-Times. 8 Apr. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/analysis-rahm%E2%80%99s-pension-bill-revisions-solve%E2%80%94and-create%E2%80%94problems/mon-04072014-728pm). 8 Apr. 2014.

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Peter Schiff: No Recovery, Just An Illusion Of Prosperity

I first started paying attention to Euro Pacific Capital’s Peter Schiff just prior to picking up his book Crash Proof: How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse (now Crash Proof 2.0, second edition) shortly after its early 2007 release. While some of the calls he made in that controversial text are still playing out, others have already come to fruition.

Subsequently, Schiff has been given credit for correctly-calling the U.S. housing bubble and its burst, and the 2008 global economic crisis.

Being one of Survival And Prosperity’s “crash prophets,” his latest investment recommendations are chronicled on this blog. As are his economic analyses and forecasts as well.

Here’s a recent breakdown of what Schiff sees going on with the U.S. economy and larger financial system, courtesy of a March 21 commentary entitled “Debt and Taxes” that’s posted on his Euro Pacific Capital website:

The last few years have proven that there is no line Washington will not cross in order to keep bubbles from popping. Just 10 years ago many of the analysts now crowing about the perfect conditions would have been appalled by policies that have been implemented to create them. The Fed has held interest rates at zero for five consecutive years, it has purchased trillions of dollars of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities, and the Federal government has stimulated the economy through four consecutive trillion-dollar annual deficits. While these moves may once have been looked on as something shocking…now anything goes.

But the new monetary morality has nothing to do with virtue, and everything to do with necessity. It is no accident that the concept of “inflation” has experienced a dramatic makeover during the past few years. Traditionally, mainstream discussion treated inflation as a pestilence best vanquished by a strong economy and prudent bankers. Now it is widely seen as a pre-condition to economic health. Economists are making this bizarre argument not because it makes any sense, but because they have no other choice.

America is trying to borrow its way out of recession. We are creating debt now in order to push up prices and create the illusion of prosperity. To do this you must convince people that inflation is a good thing…even while they instinctively prefer low prices to high. But rising asset prices do little to help the underlying economy. That is why we have been stuck in what some economists are calling a “jobless recovery.” The real reason it’s jobless is because it’s not a real recovery! So while the current booms in stocks and condominiums have been gifts to financial speculators and the corporate elite, average Americans can only watch from the sidewalks as the parade passes them by. That’s why sales of Mercedes and Maseratis are setting record highs while Fords and Chevrolets sit on showroom floors. Rising prices to do not create jobs, increase savings or expand production. Instead all we get is debt, which at some point in the future must be repaid

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Which at some point in the future must be repaid”

Good luck trying to get your average American in 2014 to wrap their head around that crucial concept.

Once again, I agree with Schiff’s observation of what is going on all around us.

“Illusion of prosperity” is a fine choice of words here, and makes sense that I find a fine economic blog by the same name good reading.

As certain as the “Big One” will eventually hit California, so must our nation’s “financial reckoning day” arrive for all this debt we’ve accrued for some short-term “prosperity.”

You can read Schiff’s entire commentary on the Euro Pacific Capital website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Chicago Wakes To Proposed Property Tax Hike On April Fool’s Day

Many Chicagoans probably wish what’s being widely-reported in the local news this morning about a proposed property tax hike is just a silly April Fool’s joke.

It’s not.

Fran Spielman wrote on the Chicago Sun-Times website last night:

Chicago property owners will face $250 million in property tax increases over five years while city employees make increased pension contributions that will cost them at least $300 more a year, under landmark reforms unveiled Monday…

The new revenue the mayor had promised only after pension reform will come in the form of $50 million property tax increases for five straight years, beginning next year and continuing through 2019.

Top mayoral aides estimate that would cost the owner of a home valued at $250,000 with an annual property tax bill of $4,000 roughly $58 more or $290 over the five-year period. That’s on top of expected increases for the Chicago Board of Education and Chicago Park District…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

A couple of thoughts here:

First off, is anyone really surprised this is happening?

Regular readers of this blog shouldn’t be.

Higher fees, fines, and taxes. Less government services.

I’ve been squawking this for quite some time now.


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Second, a $250,000 home? When discussing a Chicago Board of Education property tax hike last August, I blogged:

$230,000? You’d be hard-pressed to find a home for that little money in my former stomping grounds on the Northwest Side.

The same holds true for a $250,000 one (especially if it’s a property big enough for a family and doesn’t require a ton of work).

Which means many of my old neighbors will be coughing up significantly more than just $58 annually/$290 over five years as a result of this proposed hike.

And they already pay a big chunk of change to the City’s coffers.

Third, Spielman added last night:

The bottom line, according to Emanuel, is a plan that spreads the burden between employees, retirees and homeowners without raising property taxes so high that it triggers a mass exodus to the suburbs…

“Mass” being the key word here, because an exodus has already started. Former Chicago residents who have awakened to the “writing on the wall” are moving to the suburbs (yours truly included), leaving Cook County, and departing the state.

The push to make “temporary” personal and corporate income tax hikes permanent and the pursuit of class warfare in the form of a proposed millionaire tax hike by the ruling political party in the city, county, and state certainly don’t help the situation either.

Fourth, I can’t stand when tax hikes are proposed despite the lack of significant belt-tightening. Think the City of Chicago is as lean-and-mean as it possibly can be with its operations and set-up?

As long as 50 aldermanic wards exist, I’d argue no.

Fifth, as it stands right now, there’s still a state-required $600 million contribution due next year from the City to stabilize police and fire pension funds that this proposed property tax hike doesn’t address and has to be dealt with. Hal Dardick an Bill Ruthhart reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

But the proposal the mayor and his top aides outlined late Monday would not address huge pension shortfalls for Chicago police, firefighters and teachers. Nor would it deal with the city’s most immediate, pressing financial problem: a state requirement to pay a whopping $600 million more toward police and fire pensions next year, a provision that could lead to a combination of tax increases, service cuts and borrowing

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You read right. Possibly more “tax increases, service cuts and borrowing” coming down the line shortly for Chicago residents.

Stay tuned…

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Spielman, Fran. “Pension deal pinches city workers and taxpayers.” Chicago Sun-Times. 31 Mar. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/exclusive-pension-deal-pinches-city-workers-and-taxpayers/mon-03312014-821pm). 1 Apr. 2014.

Dardick, Hal and Ruthhart, Bill. “Emanuel’s pension fix: Shrink benefits, raise taxes.” Chicago Tribune. 1 Apr. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-rahm-emanuel-pension-property-tax-increase-met–20140401,0,1662095,full.story). 1 Apr. 2014.

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Illinois Millionaire Tax Moves Out Of Committee, Goes To House For Vote

This Monday, I blogged about Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) pushing for an income tax hike on the estimated 13,000 or so millionaires residing in the state.

The proposed legislation is making progress in the Democrat-controlled Illinois General Assembly. Doug Finke reported on The State Journal-Register (Springfield) website last night:

An Illinois House committee Thursday signed off on a measure that would allow voters to decide if millionaires should pay more in state income taxes…

The committee voted along party lines to approve the proposed constitutional amendment by House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, that would impose a 3 percent surtax on incomes above $1 million. Income up to $1 million would continue to be taxed at the state’s personal income tax rate, currently set at 5 percent…

The proposed amendment now goes to the full House, which must approve it by a three-fifths vote. The Senate will then have to approve it by the same margin for the issue to appear on the November ballot

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Opponents of the tax hike claim it not only unfairly penalizes successful residents of the state, but hurts everyone else in that it may drive away wealth from Illinois.

Speaker Madigan’s response? He was quoted by the Chicago Tribune last Friday as saying:

Well, if they’re in Illinois today, they’re probably so much in love with Illinois that they’re not going to leave.

Eye-roll please…

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Finke, Doug. “Millionaire tax amendment advances to House; progressive income tax rejected.” The State Journal-Register. 27 Mar. 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140327/NEWS/140329457/-1/json/?tag=2). 28 Mar. 2014.

Garcia, Monique, Long, Ray, and Zurich, Maura. “Illinois Democrats go all-in on class warfare theme.” Chicago Tribune. 21 Mar. 2014. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-03-21/news/chi-speaker-madigan-proposes-asking-voters-to-raise-taxes-on-wealthy-20140320_1_tax-hike-bruce-rauner-income). 24 Mar. 2014.

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Milestone: Survival And Prosperity Reaches 2,000 Posts

Yesterday was a milestone for Survival And Prosperity:

2,000 posts have now been published on the blog

Not bad considering the weblog was started a little less than three-and-a-half years ago.

My previous flagship blog, Boom2Bust.com, “The Most Hated Blog On Wall Street,” only reached around 1,500 posts.

I think a little celebration is called for, don’t you?


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There’s lots more blogging to be done. Washington and the Fed has managed to “kick the can down the road” this far, and while the economic picture might look rosy to many for a bit longer, I’m still not deviating from that prediction I made back on Memorial Day Weekend 2007 about a U.S. financial crash.

In fact, I believe we’ve already started into the descent. And gradually, the U.S. economy and larger financial system that is weighed down by tremendous debt and steered by greed, arrogance, and incompetence will eventually crash hard.

That being said, America has been here before (Great Depression). And I do see the country getting back on firm economic ground again. But only after the excesses off a multi-decade debt binge are effectively purged.

No “doomsday,” but definitely a “financial reckoning day.”

In the meantime, it’s probably wise to take advantage of the present situation to prepare for what I see is in store for the country down the road. Whether that means finding a line of work that’s more stable or acquiring more income to preserve one’s standard of living in hard times, it’s something one may want to look into and take action on while it’s still possible to do so. Of course, individual circumstances vary. Still, improving one’s self-sufficiency- even incrementally- can make a big difference in an emergency or major crisis. It’s something our predecessors in this great nation of ours understood and practiced, but unfortunately has fallen by the wayside in modern times.

Survival and prosperity. That’s what this blog continues to be all about.

Christopher E. Hill
Editor

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Wisconsin Cuts Taxes While Illinois Looks To Make 2011 ‘Temporary’ Tax Hikes Permanent

Throughout the years, I’ve known/met a number of Illinois residents who can’t stand Wisconsin. Mostly from the Chicago area, they equate Wisconsin and its residents as being unsophisticated clowns.

I wonder if they haven’t noticed by now that the only circus around is in the “Land of Lincoln.”

While Illinois falls deeper into an economic abyss (public pension fix my butt), Wisconsin seems to have gotten their finances under control and look to be on the path to prosperity.

So much so they’re cutting taxes. Again.

Patrick Marley and Jason Stein reported on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website Monday afternoon:

Lowering taxes for the third time in less than a year, Gov. Scott Walker signed his $541 million tax cut bill in a ceremony Monday at a farm in Cecil as he travels through central and northern Wisconsin touting it.

Speaking at Horsens Homestead Farms, about 35 miles northwest of Green Bay, Walker called it a great day for Wisconsin taxpayers and a sign of the state’s shifting financial fortunes in recent years.

“Now, instead of billion dollar budget deficits, we have a surplus — and today that money is on its way to the workers, parents, seniors, property owners, veterans, job creators and others. You deserve to keep as much of your hard-earned money as possible — because after all, it is your money,” Walker said.

With growing tax collections now expected to give the state a $1 billion budget surplus in June 2015, Walker’s tax proposal will cut property and income taxes for families and businesses, and zero out all income taxes for manufacturers in the state.

Though the state’s tax revenue is increasing, GOP lawmakers and Walker are trimming state spending slightly for the next three years rather than increasing it

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Meanwhile, across the Cheddar Curtain in Illinois there’s this on the website of The State Journal-Register (Springfield). Doug Finke reported Friday:

Hundreds of employees would be laid off, state facilities would be closed and thousands of prison inmates released without supervision, state agency directors told senators Friday during a hearing to gauge the effect of possibly severe spending cuts next year.

During a more than three-hour joint hearing of the two Senate Appropriations committees, agency after agency warned of drastic consequences should they be forced to cut their current budgets by 20 percent.

“There would be extreme consequences for the economy across Illinois,” warned Ben Winick of Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget office. “Over a dozen state facilities would have to close. Thousands of state employees would have to be laid off.”

The hearing occurred just days before Quinn is scheduled to finally deliver his budget outline for the fiscal year that starts July 1…

Translated? Illinois residents, this is what will happen if you don’t support making the Democrat-led temporary 67 percent personal income tax hike and 46 percent corporate income tax hike implemented in January 2011 permanent next year.

I hear Governor Quinn will be delivering his budget plan tomorrow.

Instead of ridiculing Wisconsin, us FIBs (F***ing Illinois Bastards as we’re known by up there) might want to start emulating our neighbors to the north in certain respects before we completely destroy Illinois.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Marley, Patrick and Stein, Jacob. “Scott Walker signs tax cut legislation.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 24 Mar. 2014. (http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/scott-walker-set-to-sign-tax-cut-legislation-b99231851z1-251936261.html). 24 Mar. 2014.

Finke, Doug. “State agencies outline cuts if forced to make 20% reductions.” The State Journal-Register. 21 Mar. 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140321/NEWS/140329821). 24 Mar. 2014.

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Illinois Millionaire Tax Hike Could Pass As Part Of Class Warfare Push By Democrats

While I’ve been putting a lot of time lately into my offshore Web projects, Illinois Democrats have been grabbing the local headlines as they replicate President Obama’s class warfare strategy to win votes in November. Monique Garcia, Ray Long, and Maura Zurick reported on the Chicago Tribune website last Friday:

Illinois Democrats went all-in Thursday with their election-year class warfare theme as Speaker Michael Madigan pitched the idea of asking voters to raise taxes on millionaires, Senate President John Cullerton advanced a minimum-wage increase and Gov. Pat Quinn compared wealthy opponent Bruce Rauner to TV villain Mr. Burns…

The newest front in the campaign battle came as Madigan held a rare news conference to announce he wants lawmakers to put a question on the Nov. 4 ballot asking voters whether the state should raise the income tax by 3 percentage points on those who make more than $1 million a year.

The powerful Democratic speaker said the tax hike on millionaires is a way to generate more than $1 billion for elementary and high schools. Madigan based his calculations on what he said are roughly 13,675 millionaires that lived in Illinois in 2011, brushing aside a question about whether such a tax hike might drive them out of the state.

“Well, if they’re in Illinois today, they’re probably so much in love with Illinois that they’re not going to leave,” Madigan said

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

I’m not as optimistic as the 71-year-old Speaker of the House is about Illinois millionaires sticking around if they’re targeted with a tax hike.

After all, money typically gravitates to where it’s being treated the best.

And recent demographic data suggests Chicagoland and Illinois residents may not be “so much in love” with the area as Mr. Madigan claims.

That includes the rich as well.

“Cook County’s population grew by 17,000 people in 2012, about .3 percent- but much of that gain came from immigrants, according to Census Bureau estimates released Thursday.

The figures showed that about 32,000 more domestic residents moved out of Cook County than moved in. But a net increase of 17,000 immigrants, along with a high ratio of births over deaths, contributed to an overall gain for the county…”

-Chicago Sun-Times website, March 13, 2013

Moving Out
The top outbound states for 2013 were:

1. New Jersey
2. Illinois
3. New York
4. West Virginia
5. Connecticut
6. Utah
7. Kentucky
8. Massachusetts
9. New Mexico”

-United Van Lines press release, January 2, 2014

“As the Great Recession churned job prospects for many, Cook County lost about 13,000 residents with six-figure household incomes to other places, despite the widely hyped revival of downtown housing and jobs…”

-Crain’s Chicago Business website, February 14, 2014

“Roughly 13,675 millionaires that lived in Illinois in 2011”

Should Illinois Democrats jack up their income taxes, I suspect the number of Illinois millionaires right before the tax hike is implemented will plummet. Revenue will follow. Out-of-state vacation homes in Indiana and Wisconsin will be declared as primary residences.

“A way to generate more than $1 billion for elementary and high schools”

I highly doubt that.

So does the proposed millionaire tax hike have a chance of becoming reality?

Consider what Greg Hinz blogged on the Crain’s Chicago Business website Friday:

Springfield Democrats have such big legislative majorities that they won’t need any Republican votes to pass the measure if they hang together. And Springfield insiders are saying that odds are much better that Democrats will unify behind the speaker’s proposal- which, after all, would affect only millionaires like Bruce Rauner- than behind another plan being pushed by Senate Democrats to implement a graduated income tax, which would affect far more voters.

Stay tuned. If you can stomach it.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Garcia, Monique, Long, Ray, and Zurich, Maura. “Illinois Democrats go all-in on class warfare theme.” Chicago Tribune. 21 Mar. 2014. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-03-21/news/chi-speaker-madigan-proposes-asking-voters-to-raise-taxes-on-wealthy-20140320_1_tax-hike-bruce-rauner-income). 24 Mar. 2014.

Hinz, Greg. “GOP leaders blast Madigan’s millionaires tax, but idea likely has legs.” Greg Hinz On Politics.” Crain’s Chicago Business. 21 Mar. 2014. (http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140321/BLOGS02/140329950/gop-leaders-blast-madigans-millionaires-tax-but-idea-likely-has-legs). 24 Mar. 2014.

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BIS: Global Debt Markets Grow To Estimated $100 Trillion In 2013, Up From $70 Trillion In 2007

Last night, I read about global debt markets hitting the $100 trillion-mark.

One word came to my mind at that moment:

Unsustainable.

Branimir Gruić and Andreas Schrimpf wrote “Cross-border investments in global debt markets since the crisis” in the latest BIS Quarterly Review- a report from the Bank of International Settlements (the central bank of central banks). From the publication released Sunday:

Global debt markets have grown to an estimated $100 trillion (in amounts outstanding) in mid-2013 (Graph C, left-hand panel), up from $70 trillion in mid-2007. Growth has been uneven across the main market segments. Active issuance by governments and non-financial corporations has lifted the share of domestically issued bonds, whereas more restrained activity by financial institutions has held back international issuance (Graph C, left-hand panel).

Not surprisingly, given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers (Graph C, left-hand panel). They mostly issue debt in domestic markets, where amounts outstanding reached $43 trillion in June 2013, about 80% higher than in mid-2007 (as indicated by the yellow area in Graph C, left-hand panel)…

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

“Not surprisingly, given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers”

Gruić and Schrimpf are correct- I’m not surprised.

And regular Survival And Prosperity readers shouldn’t be either, as warnings about reduced government services and new/higher taxes and fees (to deal with all this new debt) have been issued time and time again.

You can read the entire BIS report here (page 22 of the .pdf file/page 18 of the publication contains Gruić and Schrimpf’s findings).

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Record Net Worth Result Of Fed Blowing Bubbles In Housing, Stocks?

I was surfing the Internet last night when I read something about Americans’ net worth making a comeback. Neil Shah reported on The Wall Street Journal website Thursday:

Americans’ wealth hit the highest level ever last year, according to data released Thursday, reflecting a surge in the value of stocks and homes that has boosted the most affluent U.S. households.

The net worth of U.S. households and nonprofit organizations rose 14% last year, or almost $10 trillion, to $80.7 trillion, the highest on record, according to a Federal Reserve report released Thursday. Even adjusted for inflation using the Fed’s preferred gauge of prices, U.S. household net worth—the value of homes, stocks and other assets minus debts and other liabilities—hit a fresh record…

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

I can’t say I’m surprised to hear of this rebound in net worth. After all, Euro Pacific Capital’s Peter Schiff has been warning for a couple of years now that the Federal Reserve is inflating new asset bubbles via tremendous amounts of stimulus (quantitative easing) to spark some sort of economic recovery in the wake of the bursting of the housing bubble and global financial crisis that reared its head in the fall of 2008. I blogged back on September 18, 2012:

In his September 14 entry on the The Schiff Report YouTube video blog, Schiff, who correctly-predicted the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble and 2008 global economic crisis, explained to viewers what QE3 was really about:

This is the plan that Ben Bernanke has. Ben Bernanke’s plan to revive the U.S. economy, and create jobs, is to inflate another housing bubble. That’s it. That’s what the Fed’s got. That’s what it came up with. As if the last housing bubble worked out so well for the economy, that the Fed wants an encore…

How is another housing bubble going to solve anything. Now one thing that Ben Bernanke hasn’t figured out yet- it ain’t gonna work. No matter how much he tries, no matter how much air he blows in to that housing market, he’s not going to reflate that bubble. There are simply too many holes in it, and there is no precedent for relating a busted bubble. More likely, all that cheap money is going to go someplace else…

Schiff asserted the Federal Reserve was trying to inflate another housing bubble.

Instead, there’s suggestions both housing and the stock market look “frothy” these days.

Suppose the Fed did in fact want to inflate new asset bubbles. If the central bank aimed to spread the wealth around in an attempt to jump-start the economy, it doesn’t seem to be happening. Shah noted in that WSJ article:

But the rebound, while powerful, has been tilted in a way that limits the upside for the broader U.S. economy and is increasingly leaving behind many middle- and lower-income Americans…

That means that even as wealth increases, it’s increasingly going to the affluent.

In addition to the affluent, much of the wealth surge is going to older Americans. Both groups are less likely to spend their gains and more likely to save, Mr. Emmons said. Meanwhile, sheer demographics—the retirement of the baby boomers and America’s aging population—are increasing the ranks of the nation’s savers.

The upshot: While American households overall are getting wealthier, the benefits for the economy may prove limited until such improvements reach more people.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

“The benefits for the economy may prove limited until such improvements reach more people.”

I fear another financial crisis will have paid us a visit before such prosperity is achieved.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Shah, Neil “U.S. Household Net Worth Hits Record High.” The Wall Street Journal. 6 Mar. 2014. (link). 7 Mar. 2014.

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The Civic Federation Proposes Plan For Achieving Long-Term Fiscal Sustainability In Illinois

The last time I blogged about The Civic Federation, an independent, non-partisan government research organization that provides analysis and recommendations on government finance issues for the Chicago region and State of Illinois, was right before the holidays.

The Civic Federation is in the headlines again these days for proposing a five-year plan to balance the Illinois state budget, eliminate its huge bill backlog, and reduce income tax rates. From a March 3 press release:

In a report released today, the Civic Federation’s Institute for Illinois’ Fiscal Sustainability proposes a comprehensive plan for achieving long-term fiscal sustainability for the State of Illinois. The five-year plan would fully pay down the State’s $5.4 billion backlog of unpaid bills while gradually reducing income tax rates by 20%, broadening the tax base and building a reserve fund as protection against future economic downturns…

$5.4 billion? That’s a lot of bills.

One part of this financial rescue plan will likely raise the eyebrows of certain Illinois residents. From the press release:

3. Broaden Income Tax Base to Include Federally Taxable Amounts of Retirement Income: Out of the 41 states that impose an income tax, Illinois is one of only three that exempt all pension income and one of 27 that exclude all federally taxable Social Security income. The State should broaden its income tax base to create greater equity among taxpayers and facilitate the gradual rollback of the income tax rates. The broader base will also ensure greater long-term sustainability of the State’s resources by accessing a growing portion of the Illinois economy…

You can read the entire press release here, as well as find a link to The Civic Federation’s 50-page report State of Illinois FY2015 Budget Roadmap: State of Illinois Budget Overview, Projections and Recommendations for the Governor and the Illinois General Assembly.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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