Lack of budget deal will impact hard on area

By Shane Nicholson
Managing Editor

The minutes are ticking down on the state’s budget clock. The judgement hour is upon Governor Bruce Rauner and the Democratic led legislature. And what is the governor, an elected official in office – not on the campaign trail – busy doing?

Buying a second week of campaign ads to push an agenda that he seems hell bent on passing even if it means sending the state into a death spiral.

Yeah, that’s a campaign ad is what that is. From a governor who said he was ready to reach across the aisle and find real solutions. All those platitudes for not–Et tu, Bruce?

While the governor plays politics on the airwaves the situation here in Rockford is about to take a serious hit.

Sources tell The Rock River Times fully $7.56 million dollars in state funds earmarked for projects around the city will just Poof! disappear. Job-creating infrastructure-building dollars. Real dollars.

All this part of Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda” which Mayor Larry Morrissey has disappointingly backed. I can’t imagine killing Public Works projects in this climate will do much to turnaround Rockford.

You’ve got to wonder what the cost of all these Rauner ad buys in prime time across the state could’ve done to repair the Whitman/2nd Street interchange.

And that real hard cash for projects in the area may be joined by an even bigger blow.

The River Edge Redevelopment Zone’s historical tax credits could get caught up in the budget foray, and with their expiration date of Dec. 31, 2016 looming heavy on the minds of area developers transformative work may crawl to halt.

Those tax credits have brought over $120 million in outside investment into the Rockford area since they went into place. Job-creating infrastructure-building dollars. Real dollars.

Are we seeing a trend yet?

Meanwhile, the governor seems set only to put forward solutions that have failed elsewhere, including the retread notion of a tax on advertising.

Rauner was keen on pushing for a 10 percent tax on ad services during his campaign, but now press secretary Catherine Kelly says it’s just going to be the standard sales tax rate of 6.25 percent.

Exactly what part of a tax on advertising is pro-business? Here’s an industry that helps generate $267 billion in economic activity in the state and over 900,000 jobs. Can we afford to lose even more jobs in this state just so the governor can act like he’s doing something proactive? Of course not.

And here’s the other thing: this has been tried before. Florida went down this path. It didn’t work out too well.

”I think we will eventually see some other states go for a services tax to generate revenue, but I doubt after Florida’s experience anyone wants to apply it to advertisers,” said William T. Pound, executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In 1987.


Ad purchasing in Florida cratered with the state losing over $100 million in revenue to its neighbors. Given the GOP beating to death the thought of our own state’s neighbors swooping in to steal our economy while we weren’t looking it’s amazing that this would ever be tossed about as a solution at all.

The fact that solutions that failed miserably in the 80s are being recycled by Rauner’s administration doesn’t give one much hope.

Maybe the governor will Turnaround in time to see advertising dollars fly out the back door to Indiana, Wisconsin and Kentucky on the back of his ridiculous Agenda.

But then it’s coming from a governor still playing campaign trail politics six months into his term.

One who complains about the $4 billion gap in the Dem’s budget while gleefully ignoring the $3.3 billion hole in his.

Maybe if we play along with his campaign-mk2 advertisements he’ll get around to offering all those real across-the-aisle solutions in six months.

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