Last week area GOP legislators gathered to slam Democrat JB Pritzker for his failure to explain what's in his tax plan.
Pritzker has talked a lot about that tax plan, which would involve moving to graduated rates just like federal taxes rather than Illinois' flat tax. But he's never said what he'd like the rates to be.
He's certainly said he wants the uber-rich — like himself and Gov. Bruce Rauner — to pay more. But he's never said where he'd start stepping up rates — or done so much as offer a glimpse into how much, if at all, lower-income folks would pay less, or whether middle-class folks would catch a break as well. (Or, for that matter, even jumped into explaining what he considers low income or middle class.)
That absence has left a gigantic vacuum, easily attacked.
Of course, that's because Pritzker is asking voters to buy a pig in a poke.
Trust me, the politician says, this great plan about which I'll only talk in generalities will fund almost all my grand plans. But I can't tell you how much you'll pay — or even general guidelines for what I think.
The Legislature, Pritzker says, will have to be involved.
Well, we've got news. On pretty much anything you do as governor, the Legislature will be involved. That's how American democracy works with its separation of powers.
Past governors have managed to propose plans and have carried on just fine with life when the Legislature made some changes — or brought them back down to Earth.
Of course, the whole situation is a lose-lose for Pritzker. Release the rates, you get hammered. Don't release them, you get hammered.
It could be politically wise — if not entirely honest, from a campaign standpoint — to propose the rates kick in only for the uber-rich, and then let the Legislature do the dirty work later of agreeing on a different plan. House Speaker Michael Madigan has broad shoulders, after all.
But even that is problematic, since only soaking people with Scrooge McDuck-style pools of money likely wouldn't bring in enough to pay for all his plans.
Then again, Republicans aren't entirely pure either.
Gov. Bruce Rauner says he's for lower taxes, which is true — though it sure didn't stop him from presenting a budget that spent money from the 2017 tax hike he hated. Rather than proposing politically unpopular cuts, he spent the money he opposed getting.
And moreover, it doesn't seem as though his administration has anything even resembling a coherent plan for eliminating that tax hike.
We asked during that press conference last week. Here's what Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti said.
Kaergard: What's your plan to reduce the tax hike? Speaking of plans that need fleshing out — what's your administration's plan to reduce the tax hike?
Sanguinetti: Well, our administration's plan over the course of the four years that we've been in leadership and going forward is to ... (crosstalk) ... Well, of course, because there will be another term because I firmly believe that after the voters do their homework they will find that Bruce Rauner is, is the leader in Illinois that will make Illinois a wonderful place to have businesses, to grow your families here, to grow your businesses here. Why? Because over the course of time we will be less punitive to businesses, which is something that we’ve always fought for. We’ve seen it with the Angel Investment Tax Credit and the fact that we resuscitated it. We saw that with the LLC fees and the fact that Bruce Rauner took it back to the tune of 70 percent. Why? So that our small farmers could decide to open up their businesses. Other businesses could come here and take a leap rather than doing it in our neighboring states where it was so much cheaper in the past. This is the sort of governor that you will have in Bruce Rauner. One that will not be punitive to businesses and one who is truly a leader. Not an individual that was anointed by Mike Madigan who has been in office since I was a mere 3 months of age. Thank you.
We're still trying to digest that word salad, but can anyone find a plan in there?
Stuck in the middle
One other little problem, by the way. Part of Sanguinetti's schtick included complaining about the potential impact on "us" in the middle class, meaning "we" might struggle more, having to eat chicken five days a week and only have red meat twice a week.
Sanguinetti's job pays her $135,669 annually. She's married. And while we have no idea how much her husband's income adds to the family coffers, we do know that the U.S. Census Bureau says the median household income in Wheaton, where she lives, was $91,241 from 2012-16, presented in 2016 dollars. So her income alone is almost half again as much as the median in that relatively nice suburb, which some of "us" in Peoria County — median household income $51,632 — might call a bit more comfortable than middle class.
Chris Kaergard covers politics and government. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.