Illinois Republicans

State Of Illinois’ Unpaid Bills Could Spike To $15 Billion By July

Bad news about the State of Illinois’ finances keeps rolling in. Monique Garcia reported on the website of the Chicago Tribune this morning:

The state has a record stack of unpaid bills that’s expected to hit $15 billion by July if nothing is done, and it must fork over interest when it’s late paying them. Putting a hard dollar figure on those interest costs is difficult, however…

The potential price tag is high enough that Senate leaders from both parties are pushing a plan to borrow billions of dollars to help whittle down the bill backlog and limit interest payments…

Under the plan being pushed by Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate, Illinois would borrow $7 billion over seven years to pay down the bill backlog and bring the payment cycle closer to 30 days…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The Tribune article comes after Governor Bruce Rauner pointed out in his State of the State address last Wednesday:

We haven’t had a full year budget of some kind in a year-and-a-half- and we haven’t had a state budget that is truly balanced in decades. We have more than $11 billion in unpaid bills, a $130 billion unfunded pension liability, and the worst credit rating in the nation. We have the 5th highest overall tax burden and one of the lowest rates of job creation of any state

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Garcia’s piece took a close look at the interest payments associated with the bill backlog debacle, which you can read about here on the Tribune site.

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

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Amended Illinois Tax Hike Plan To Hit Taxpayers, Businesses, And Employment?

Back on January 16 I published a post on Survival And Prosperity entitled “Illinois ‘Grand Bargain’ Legislation Includes 32 Percent Personal Income Tax Hike.” I started the piece with:

Illinois taxpayers may get hit with a significant income tax hike pretty soon…

Yesterday morning, I learned the potential “hit” could be a “combination of punches” directred at taxpayers, businesses, and employment.

From the Greg Hinz On Politics blog on the website of Crain’s Chicago Business:

There’s still no word on when lawmakers are going to vote on it, but an amended tax-hike plan has been introduced in the state capital.

It’s a doozy, with an even higher income tax, a limited service tax and a sort of minimum tax on business. But the soda pop levy is gone, as are a couple of those corporate loophole closings that business groups didn’t like…

The highlights:

The Individual income tax would go to 4.99 percent from the current 3.75 percent, and the corporate income tax to 7 percent from 5.25 percent. Combined, that would pull in about an additional $5 billion a year.

A new “business opportunity tax” ranging from a fee of $225 to $15,000 a year would be imposed, based on payroll. The intent is to make sure that all companies pay something, whether they are profitable or not. The state’s net on this is an estimated $750 million a year.

However, the research and development tax credit would be made permanent and the manufacturers purchase and graphics arts credits would be combined, as some businesses wanted.

A service tax—extension of the sales tax—would be imposed on certain items including repair and maintenance of personal property, use of amusement services including gyms, landscaping, laundry and dry-cleaning, and storage of personal goods such as cars and property. This would pull in a projected $400 million a year.

The telecom excise tax would be extended to cable and satellite services.

Both Radogno and Cullerton are said to have negotiated and support the above, pending action on the rest of the package…

Hinz does a good job summarizing the proposed expanded revenue grab. At this point, I want to go back to that bit about a new “business opportunity tax.” From the actual legislation for the so-called “Business Opportunity Tax Act”:

Section 1-10. Tax imposed.
(a) Beginning on July 1, 2017, a tax is hereby imposed upon each qualified business for the privilege of doing business in the State.
(b) The tax under subsection (a) shall be imposed in the following amounts:
(1) if the taxpayer’s total Illinois payroll for the taxable year is less than $100,000, then then annual tax is $225;
(2) if the taxpayer’s total Illinois payroll for the taxable year is $100,000 or more but less than $250,000, then the annual tax is $750;
(3) if the taxpayer’s total Illinois payroll for the taxable year is $250,000 or more but less than $500,000, then the annual tax is $3,750;
(4) if the taxpayer’s total Illinois payroll for the taxable year is $500,000 or more but less than $1,500,000, then the annual tax is $7,500; and
(5) if the taxpayer’s total Illinois payroll for the taxable year is $1,500,000 or more, then the annual tax is $15,000…

I can see a number of existing and prospective Illinois business owners having concerns with the proposed “Business Opportunity Tax Act.”

First, Illinois already has poor business reputation. For example, early last year Chief Executive magazine asked 513 CEOs to rank states they are familiar with on the friendliness of their tax and regulatory regime, workforce quality, and living environment. The “Land of Lincoln” came in as the 48th worst state in this annual survey, beaten only by New York and California in that order. The “Business Opportunity Tax Act” has the real potential of increasing the perception that Illinois is business-unfriendly.

Second, if my understanding of the legislation is correct, the larger the payroll an Illinois business has, the more taxes they will pay. Consider the following. If I’m an Illinois business owner with a payroll just shy of $250K who would like to bring on more staff, I may be dissuaded from doing so to avoid forking over an additional $3,000 to the state (unless I’m convinced the hiring would offset the $3K hit). And how might employee raises be impacted once payrolls start approaching a higher tax bracket? The proposed “Business Opportunity Tax Act” may not be too terrific for Illinois employment.

Third, readers of this blog may know that I am in the process of rolling out a research business focusing on specialized asset protection. It’s been my intention to launch in the Chicago area. Lately, however, I’ve been thninking of opening up shop in southeast Wisconsin (where my family has a residence) due to the direction Illinois looks to be heading with taxes and its treatment of the business community. The passage of the “Business Opportunity Tax Act” could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I wonder how many other prospective Illinois business owners might be in the same boat?

Stay tuned…

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

Source:

Hinz, Greg. “New, wider tax plan rolls out in Springfield.” Greg Hinz On Politics. 24 Jan. 2017. (http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20170124/BLOGS02/170129931/springfield-lawmakers-roll-out-new-wider-tax-hike-plan). 26 Jan. 2017.

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Illinois ‘Grand Bargain’ Legislation Includes 32 Percent Personal Income Tax Hike

Illinois taxpayers may get hit with a significant income tax hike pretty soon. John O’Connor of the Associated Press reported Sunday on The State Journal-Register website:

If last week’s action is any indication, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Illinois Senate are serious about attempting to bust the state’s 18-month budget deadlock – quickly…

Promising to act on a package by month’s end, they introduced 13 measures Wednesday that included non-budget-related sweeteners for both sides. By Thursday, they had been rapidly assigned public committee hearings…

Here’s a look at other major pieces of the legislation some in the Capitol have nicknamed the “grand bargain”:

* Income tax increase: The personal income tax would jump from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent, a plan to generate $4.1 billion a year. With spending cuts, Democrats argue, that could eliminate what the governor’s office estimates will be a $5.3 billion deficit on the June 30 end of the fiscal year…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The proposed 32 percent income tax hike is not a sure thing, as O’Connor noted:

The outstanding question is if a Senate-approved deal would ultimately pass muster with Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has refused to entertain Rauner’s pro-business agenda as part of budget talks…

Six years ago, the 3 percent personal income tax rate jumped to 5 percent until 2015, when the rate rolled back to the current 3.75 percent.

Like I just suggested to Chicago taxpayers in the previous post, Illinois taxpayers might want to take heed of what’s potentially coming down the pipeline.

Other pieces of legislation include $7 billion more borrowing to pay off overdue bills (now at $10.7 billion), which you can read about on the The State Journal-Register site here.

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

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Donald Trump Inheriting A ‘Poisoned Chalice’?

I’ve had this suspicion for some time now that whoever won the 2016 U.S. presidential election is very likely inheriting a “poisoned chalice.”

When I launched Boom2Bust.com, “The Most Hated Blog On Wall Street,” on Memorial Day weekend 2007, I started warning readers of a coming U.S. financial collapse.

After moving on to Survival And Prosperity in 2010, I came to believe the economy/larger financial system had already entered a long, drawn-out descent before the eventual crash.

That downward trajectory would be punctuated by crises like what reared its ugly head in the autumn of 2008.

Financial types were quick to label the recession at the end of last decade as the “Great Recession.”

This “nattering nabob of negativity” thinks it’s only a matter of time before a “Greater Recession” strikes, fueled by Washington and the Fed “kicking the can down the road” and having too few bullets left when that “road” inevitably runs out.

President-elect Trump is also aware of the possibility of such economic upheaval.

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reported on The Washington Post website back on April 2, 2016:

Donald Trump said in an interview that economic conditions are so perilous that the country is headed for a “very massive recession” and that “it’s a terrible time right now” to invest in the stock market, embracing a distinctly gloomy view of the economy that counters mainstream economic forecasts…

Trump has for months contended that the U.S. economy is in trouble because of what he sees as an overvalued stock market, but his view has grown more pessimistic of late and he is now bearish on investing, to the point of warning Americans against doing so.

“I think we’re sitting on an economic bubble. A financial bubble,” Trump said. He made clear that he was not specifying a sector of the economy but the economy at large and asserted that more bullish forecasts were based on skewed employment numbers and an inflated stock market.

“First of all, we’re not at 5 percent unemployment. We’re at a number that’s probably into the twenties if you look at the real number,” Trump said. “That was a number that was devised, statistically devised to make politicians- and, in particular, presidents — look good. And I wouldn’t be getting the kind of massive crowds that I’m getting if the number was a real number.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Yet Trump, as President-elect of the United States, chooses to accept the potential “poisoned chalice,” from which he might be forced to drink from during his tenure in the Oval Office as the current economic expansion grows long in the tooth.

Consider the following from Jeffrey Sparshott in The Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog this morning:

Donald Trump is poised to inherit one of the longest-lived economic expansions since the World War II era. Barring any sudden shock or sudden acceleration, the president-elect will also take office during the weakest

The economy has been growing for more than seven years, ranking the expansion the fourth-longest since 1949 (when quarterly data became available). If economic expansion continues through Mr. Trump’s first term, it will be the longest.

While gross domestic product, a broad measure of economic of output, is advancing, it’s been at the slowest rate on record for an expansion

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

I’d like to think Donald Trump and the Republicans could turn this ship around and avert economic disaster.

I, for one, would only be too happy to be proven wrong about my prediction of a “Greater Recession” and eventual collapse.

But I fear the damage may already be done.

So much so that the incoming White House might want to level with the American people about what might be in store for them from an economic standpoint.

Otherwise, the public will have less of a fighting chance of weathering the financial storm should it hit.

Not to mention opponents of a Trump administration will try hard to pin the blame on them for a painful event previous administrations played a big part in creating.

One need only look at Illinois where Republican Governor Bruce Rauner (only 22 months in office) is facing the same baseless charges for decades of mismanagement perpetrated by those across the political aisle.

President-elect Trump has his work cut out for him as the economy is concerned. The billionaire businessman seems to be up for the challenge, and America will know soon enough if he can pull off yet another amazing feat.

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

Sources:

Costa, Robert and Woodward, Bob. “In a revealing interview, Trump predicts a ‘massive recession’ but intends to eliminate the national debt in 8 years.” The Washington Post. 2 Apr. 2016. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-turmoil-or-triumph-donald-trump-stands-alone/2016/04/02/8c0619b6-f8d6-11e5-a3ce-f06b5ba21f33_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_trumppresidency-7pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory). 11 Nov. 2016.

Sparshott, Jeffrey. “The U.S. Economy President Donald Trump Will Inherit, in 11 Charts.” Real Time Economics. 11 Nov. 2016. (http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2016/11/11/the-u-s-economy-president-donald-trump-will-inherit-in-11-charts/). 11 Nov. 2016.

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Illinois On Pace To Run $5 Billion Deficit

“Gaze upon the Illinois landscape today and things may seem OK. Schools opened last week, the roads are getting repaired, the state fair was held, the University of Illinois begins a new academic year tomorrow, the state government’s even paying its bills.

Enjoy this period of normality. It isn’t going to last much longer…”

-Tom Kacich, reporter/columnist at The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana), August 23, 2015

More bad news about Illinois’ fiscal health. Natasha Korecki reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website Monday:

Illinois is paying its bills – by court mandate — since Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner were unable to reach a budget agreement. Rauner vetoed a Democrat-authored financial plan in June, saying it was out of balance by some $4 billion. The new fiscal year came and went July 1 without a new plan in place. Both sides say they’re willing to negotiate, but remain locked into their positions. Rauner wants a series of changes to benefit businesses and weaken unions in Illinois. Democrats oppose the proposals and say they shouldn’t be attached to a budget…

A recent analysis by Senate Democrats indicates that because of various contracts, decrees and court orders compelling spending, the state had already committed 90 percent of its revenues and was on pace to be $5 billion in the hole

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Kacich added from my old stomping grounds:

In May the Democrats who control the Legislature approved a budget that called for spending about $36.5 billion.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it, calling it “unconstitutional” and “unbalanced.”

You want to see unbalanced?

Even without a constitutional budget in place, the state is still spending money, and eventually it could rise to a level of spending greater than the budget the Democrats sent him in May.

During a Senate hearing last week on an additional appropriation of $373 million for MAP grants for low-income college students — it passed and will go to the House for near-certain approval — Democratic legislators admitted the state is operating at a “spend rate” of 90 percent on a $38 billion budget

Anticipated revenue for the year, meanwhile, is the range of $32 billion, or $33 billion if the economy takes off.

Ugh…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

$36.5 billion was the proposed budget. It was vetoed. The state is currently operating at a 90 percent “spend rate” of a $38 billion budget. And anticipated revenue for the year is only $32-$33 billion.

Not good.

Kacich thinks a tax increase, “that may or may not be bigger than the one that was phased out on Jan. 1.,” is headed our way.

I think he’s right about that tax hike. And it’s something Illinoisans may want to take into account concerning their personal finances in the near future.

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

Sources:

Kacich, Tom. “Tom Kacich: Enjoy the calm; the storm is on the way.” The News-Gazette. 23 Aug. 2015. (http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2015-08-23/tom-kacich-enjoy-calm-storm-way.html). 26 Aug. 2015.

Korecki, Natasha. “Comptroller: Illinois facing ‘severe cash shortage.’ Chicago Sun-Times. 24 Aug. 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/7/71/903797/comptroller-illinois-facing-severe-cash-shortage). 26 Aug. 2015.

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Illinois Tax Hikes Coming Warn Municipal Bond Fund Managers

Talk of rapidly-approaching tax hikes in the “Land of Lincoln” is growing. Reuters’ Nick Brown, Megan Davies, and Karen Pierog reported yesterday:

With no easy way to financially engineer or negotiate its way out of a budget and pensions crisis, Illinois is likely to dish out some unpleasant medicine to its residents in the next few years. And investors say that is most likely to come in the form of higher taxes.

Given the Democrats’ control of the state legislature and their opposition to many proposals for spending cuts, municipal bond fund managers see little alternative for Republican Governor Bruce Rauner other than eventually agreeing to hike taxes, such as raising the state’s income tax or broadening its sales tax base…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Regular readers of Survival And Prosperity shouldn’t be surprised when the hikes (fees, fines, and taxes) arrive, as they’ve been discussed on this blog for quite some time now. The tragedy is that Springfield continues to waste time and resources on trivial matters while neglecting to tackle crucial issues like the well-publicized debt crisis. Monique Garcia and Kim Geiger reported on the latest nonsense preoccupying the politicians. From the Chicago Tribune website this afternoon:

Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan’s effort to ask voters to approve a measure to impose higher income taxes on millionaires failed in the House on Thursday, but provides the powerful Southwest Side politician ammunition to attack Republicans in next year’s legislative campaigns.

The proposal needed 71 “yes” votes to pass, but received just 68. But now there’s a roll call, and Madigan’s Illinois Democratic Party could send out mailers criticizing Republicans who voted against the idea. Democrats already have sent out attack ads against Republicans who did not vote in favor of a property tax freeze last week

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Games. Stupid political games as the state’s “financial reckoning day” fast approaches.

By the way, back on March 24 of last year I blogged about that push for a “millionaire’s tax” in Illinois. My prediction now is pretty much the same as it was a year ago:

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.

The only difference being, I forgot to mention Michigan vacation homes.

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

Sources:

Brown, Nick, Davies, Megan and Pierog. “As Illinois runs out of options in budget crisis, tax rises seen in the cards.” Reuters. 20 May 2015. (http://news.yahoo.com/illinois-runs-options-budget-crisis-tax-rises-seen-051616644.html). 21 May 2015.

Garcia, Monique and Geiger, Kim. “Madigan’s ‘millionaire tax’ question fails in House.” Chicago Tribune. 21 May 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-rauner-warns-of-long-overtime-20150521-story.html). 21 May 2015.

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Tax Hikes Coming As Illinois Public Pension Crisis ‘Fix’ Shot Down By State Supreme Court?

This weekend Illinoisans heard about the Friday ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court on a law that was celebrated by many as a big step in resolving the state’s well-publicized public pension crisis. Rick Pearson and Kim Geiger reported on the Chicago Tribune website Friday:

The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday unanimously ruled unconstitutional a landmark state pension law that aimed to scale back government worker benefits to erase a massive $105 billion retirement system debt…

At issue was a December 2013 state law signed by then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn that stopped automatic, compounded yearly cost-of-living increases for retirees, extended retirement ages for current state workers and limited the amount of salary used to calculate pension benefits.

Employee unions sued, arguing that the state constitution holds that pension benefits amount to a contractual agreement and once they’re bestowed, they cannot be “diminished or impaired.” A circuit court judge in Springfield agreed with that assessment in November. State government appealed that decision to the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing that economic necessity forced curbing retirement benefits.

On Friday the justices rejected that argument, saying the law clearly violated what’s known as the pension protection clause in the 1970 Illinois Constitution…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Can’t say I was too surprised to hear that ruling handed down.

As for the ramifications on Main Street? Pearson and Geiger added:

The ruling means Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly will have to come up with a new solution after justices appeared to offer little in the way of wiggle room beyond paying what’s owed, which likely would require a tax increase. Coming up with a way to bridge a budget gap of more than $6 billion already was going to be difficult with little more than three weeks before a scheduled May 31 adjournment, and now the pension mess has been added to the mix.

Rauner, who argued during last year’s campaign that the law was unconstitutional and didn’t go far enough to reduce the pension debt, said the court ruling only reinforces his approach of getting voters to approve a constitutional amendment that “would allow the state to move forward on common-sense pension reforms.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“A constitutional amendment”

I’m not so sure how that would work out. Consider what Natasha Korecki reported over on the Chicago Sun-Times website Friday:

But it was unclear how such an amendment would help solve the crisis. It arguably could not bring savings because, according to the court ruling, a new law cannot retroactively affect those who are already in the system, said Charles N. Wheeler III, Director of the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield…

“Likely would require a tax increase”

I suspect- as Survival And Prosperity has been warning for some time now- that Illinoisans will soon be hit with significantly-higher taxes as a consequence of those $6 billion state budget and $105 public pension gaps. Korecki added:

An Illinois Supreme Court ruling that struck down a pension reform law on Friday could have just opened the door even wider to the prospect of deep cuts to services and new taxes for Illinois residents.

With only three weeks left until lawmakers have to pass a balanced budget, legislators now have even more political cover to raise taxes and cut spending following the high court’s decision that it was unconstitutional for the state to pare back promised pension benefits for state employees…

“This ensures that however we resolve this, the citizens of Illinois will be paying more for less service from the state of Illinois,” Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of the University of Illinois at Springfield, said of Friday’s ruling. “I think that’s an inevitable outcome from this.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

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

Something I’ve kept warning about on this blog, with regular observers of Springfield now talking it about these days (if they weren’t already).

I wonder to what extent Illinoisans have prepared/are preparing for such a scenario? I’ll be talking more about this later.

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

Sources:

Pearson, Rick and Geiger, Kim. “Illinois Supreme Court rules landmark pension law unconstitutional.” Chicago Tribune. 8 May 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-illinois-pension-law-court-ruling-20150508-story.html#page=1). 11 May 2015.

Korecki, Natasha. “State Supreme Court pension ruling provides political cover to cut more, tax more.” Chicago Sun-Times. 8 May 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/7/71/590030/state-supreme-court-pension-ruling-provides-political-cover-cut-tax). 11 May 2015.

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Christopher E. Hill, Editor

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