Rich Miller: Thanks for the Shout Out

Rich MillerRich Miller, the chief cook and bottle washer at the Capitol Fax blog, took aim at me for some comments I made on the House floor last week where I said that the rush for a progressive income tax and other revenue measures is taking front seat over our lack of concern about what happens to that money when we get our hands on it. He started by referencing a line in a story from the Illinois News Network:

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“State Rep. Steve Reick, R-Woodstock, told lawmakers on the House Floor that they’re ignoring the problem and need to begin examining where state money is sent in lieu of properly funding pensions.”

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His response to that:

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“What we need to do is pay into the freaking system and stop the gimmicks and the scare tactics. Neither are getting us anywhere. You wanna help? Find $2 billion a year. Auditing state contractors ain’t gonna do that.”

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Rich, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. Of course I know that auditing state contractors “ain’t gonna do that.” But what a deeper examination of the operations of state agencies might do is show taxpayers that we’re serious about fiscal responsibility. It might make them more trusting of us when we do go to them for more money. Hell, it might have actually saved us a few million dollars.

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You seem to be quite fond of scoffing at any suggestion such as mine, and would probably say that there are any number of cost studies that have been done that never went anywhere and are gathering dust on some shelf at some state agency, and you’d probably be right. That’s not the fault of those who commissioned the studies; it’s the fault of the Legislature for its failure to do the necessary work of implementing their recommendations. It says more about us as a body than it does about those who thought it might be a good idea to see where all that money goes.

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I’m not saying that we don’t need more revenue. We do. And I’m not one of those who spends all his time railing against new revenue without offering up any ideas as to how we’re supposed to pay the bills except to insist that we can do it through cost cutting. They’re more unrealistic than you say I am. And you know who I’m talking about. Dogma and principle aren’t the same thing, and nothing was ever accomplished by relying upon dogma.

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But raising revenue piecemeal: a progressive income tax here and a hike in the motor fuel tax there and God knows what other proposals that will spring from the fevered minds of those who now control all the levers of State government is not the answer. We need systemic change of our entire taxing system; we need a tax system that tracks the direction of our State economy, which is away from heavy industry and its reliance on income taxes to services and consumption. It involves every source of State revenue, but is a task that will take longer to accomplish than we have before the next election cycle, so of course it’s doomed.

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So, Rich, if you want to have that conversation, let’s have it. But come to that conversation with an open mind, because if you don’t, all you’re doing is scoring cheap points at the expense of those of us who actually give a damn.

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