Columns | Northwest Herald

Eye On Illinois: Candidates should plan to sell logic of Family Relief Plan

I don’t mind paying taxes.

That statement obfuscates a lot of nuance, but place “taxation is theft” on one end of the spectrum opposite “government should provide everything for everyone always” and I’ve landed somewhere understanding taxes are necessary to fund the common good, like safe roads, trained firefighters and quality schools.

What I don’t like is feeling my general goodwill is something for politicians to leverage while collecting and spending without sufficient clarity.

Reasonable people can disagree on how much to allocate. They do so by quibbling over whether that intersection really needs a traffic light or if it’s worth repairing the municipal pool. But on a large scale – taxes on income, property and purchases, annual vehicle registration, whizzing through highway toll readers – it’s increasingly difficult to have a firm grasp on where all our money goes, on the way in and out.

Which brings us to the $1.8 billion Family Relief Plan, a fancy phrase Illinois Democrats use to describe their signature 2022 accomplishment. The package, according to Capitol News Illinois, includes deferring increases or temporarily suspending taxes for groceries, school supplies and gas. The state also will send checks to many residents and double tax credits for teachers.

“We are able to do that because Democrats balanced the budget, eliminated the bill backlog and state government is now running a surplus,” Gov. JB Pritzker said.

Republicans maintain the budget is in no way balanced, while crowing about a surplus seemingly implies all our problems are solved going forward – a demonstrably false assertion.

The child protective services system is a disaster and we don’t have a good handle on long-term pension obligations. Though far from the only problems, those two challenges should be enough to keep anyone busy finding solutions. Why give out $50 income tax rebates when we don’t have enough safe foster care beds?

Partisans differ over whether a budget is balanced because government spending is much murkier than personal purchasing decisions. Many line items are based on estimates of revenue and expenses. Capital projects can be deferred but cost more later. A huge portion of providing services is tied up in salary and benefits, scarcely fixed costs.

That’s confusing enough before factoring in all the ways taxpayers fund local, county and state government. Whether we feel we’re getting return on those mandatory investments is unavoidably subjective.

Obviously life is more expensive these days than it was last Independence Day. The General Assembly isn’t really the cause and can’t be a comprehensive solution. If a relief plan temporarily makes life easier for a large amount of residents, great, but Democrats campaigning on this blueprint should be prepared to explain how the short-term strategy aligns with long-term fiduciary duty.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at