Proposed constitutional amendment would continue Illinois' destructive legacy

 
Posted10/2/2022 1:00 AM

So many times when we talk to business owners at the Illinois Policy Institute, we find they started their businesses for the same reason: to leave a legacy for future generations of their families.

Speaking from a dad's perspective, I completely understand this motivation. We all want our children and future generations to have it better than we had it. We want to leave them a legacy they can be proud of.

 

Unfortunately, the state's lawmakers have perpetuated a poor legacy of heaping crippling costs and debt on future generations. It's becoming harder to leave our children an Illinois they won't want to depart, a place they can build their own lives and find bright futures

A proposed change to the Illinois Constitution on the General Election ballot would only continue Illinois' notorious legacy for current and future Illinoisans if it passes. Amendment 1 is the first item on the Nov. 8 ballot that proponents have erroneously dubbed the "Workers' Rights Amendment." Despite the misleading marketing, no Illinois worker would lose rights if Amendment 1 is rejected, but current and future generations of Illinois would suffer a heavy if it is adopted.

Amendment 1 would force Illinoisans to pay increased property taxes to fund extreme benefits for government unions that have nothing to do with traditional wages or compensation. The amendment would allow government unions to negotiate new demands related to "economic welfare," which could include affordable housing assistance, restorative justice or preventing the adoption of new technologies in the workplace. The more subjects to bargain over and the longer negotiations take, the greater the cost to taxpayers -- and the higher property tax bills climb.

According to an Illinois Policy Institute model based on how property taxes have risen within the past decade, median homeowners in Cook County would pay at least $2,935 more during the next four years if Amendment 1 passes. Typical DuPage County homeowners would see bills increase at least $2,125. The totals for both counties would likely be much higher given the flexibility of the amendment's language and breadth of potential union demands.

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The amendment would irresponsibly condemn current Illinois taxpayers to fund a "blank check" for government unions, and the amendment's presence in the Illinois Constitution would force future generations to continue to back this "blank check" without end.

Unfortunately, Illinois has a long legacy of placing unrestricted costs on Illinois' future generations and cementing those costs into the state's highest law.

The legacy began in 1970 when Illinois adopted an amendment known today as the "pension protection clause," which barred legislators from ever changing government unions' pension benefits. Over time, the state saw the result of overpromised pension benefits in increased taxes, a factor that makes Illinois an unstable and uncertain environment for business owners. Today, even though Illinoisans pay some of the highest tax burdens in the country, Illinois' total pension debt still totals almost $140 billion.

Rather than introduce reforms that would adjust the pension protection clause to repair Illinois' broken pension system, Illinois legislators gave the state Amendment 1. Future generations of Illinois taxpayers and business owners who will determine the future of the state's employment prospects deserve better.

With the polls officially open, rejecting Amendment 1 is the only way to put a stop to Illinois' destructive legacy. Without reforms, it may take future generations a long time to undo the damage Illinois government has wrought. Let's not make it harder on them.

• Matt Paprocki is president of the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization.

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