Central United States
From the Wall Street Journal.
Run up spending and debt, raise taxes in the naming of balancing the budget, but then watch as deficits rise and your credit-rating falls anyway. That’s been the sad pattern in Europe, and now it’s hitting that mecca of tax-and-spend government known as Illinois.
Though too few noticed, this month Moody’s downgraded Illinois state debt to A2 from A1, the lowest among the 50 states. That’s worse even than California. The state’s cost of borrowing for $800 million of new 10-year general obligation bonds rose to 3.1%—which is 110 basis points higher than the 2% on top-rated 10-year bonds of more financially secure states.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. Only a year ago, Governor Pat Quinn and his fellow Democrats raised individual income taxes by 67% and the corporate tax rate by 46%. They did it to raise $7 billion in revenue, as the Governor put it, to “get Illinois back on fiscal sound footing” and improve the state’s credit rating.
So much for that. In its downgrade statement, Moody’s panned Illinois lawmakers for “a legislative session in which the state took no steps to implement lasting solutions to its severe pension underfunding or to its chronic bill payment delays.” An analysis by Bloomberg finds that the assets in the pension fund will only cover “45% of projected liabilities, the least of any state.” And—no surprise—in part because the tax increases have caused companies to leave Illinois, the state budget office confesses that as of this month the state still has $6.8 billion in unpaid bills and unaddressed obligations.
It’s worth contrasting this grim picture with that of Wisconsin north of the border. Last winter Madison was occupied by thousands of union protesters trying to bully legislators to defeat Republican Governor Scott Walker’s plan to require government workers to pay a larger share of their health-plan costs, and to shore up the pension system by trimming future retirement liabilities. The reforms passed anyway.
In contrast to the Illinois downgrade, Moody’s has praised Mr. Walker’s budget as “credit positive for Wisconsin,” adding that the money-saving reforms bring “the state’s finances closer to a structural budgetary balance.” As a result, Wisconsin jumped in Chief Executive magazine’s 2011 ranking of each state’s business climate—moving to 17th from 41st. Illinois dropped to 48th from 45th as ranked by the nation’s top CEOs.
And in Ohio, Republican Governor John Kasich also saw success.
Ohio’s new fiscal responsibility is getting noticed and rewarded.
Standard & Poor’s upgraded the state’s credit forecast from “negative” to “stable,” in time for a $417 million bond sale last week to refinance at a lower interest rate and restructure debt.
Ohio’s lean budget will pay off with lower costs for borrowing, saving taxpayers as much as $1 million or more over the course of a year, according to the state’s Office of Budget and Management. It’s like having a credit-card company lower its annual percentage rate: The borrower can either accelerate the payoff or spend the savings elsewhere.
So essentially, cutting state programs spared money for state programs.
This is vindication for the Kasich administration. When Gov. John Kasich took office this year, the state was $8 billion in the hole and its rainy-day fund totaled $1.78. That’s not a typo; Ohio barely had enough in the bank to buy itself a cup of coffee. A small one.
[...]Investors pay attention to these ratings, especially since Ohio stands out as other states continue to struggle. “There are a lot of jitters in the credit market; I can’t imagine it won’t be helpful,” said Robin Prunty, primary credit analyst with Standard & Poor’s.
[...]Most states still are struggling with the economic recovery and phasing out one-time money from the federal stimulus program that Kasich’s predecessor used to paper over the deficit. S&P’s revised outlook reflects its view that Ohio’s economy “is steadily recovering.”
“The outlook revision reflects the state’s progress in moving toward structural budget balance through fiscal 2013 and the modest economic recovery under way,” its report says.
Republican tax policies work, and Democrat policies don’t. Taxing the rich sounds good, but it doesn’t help the poor. To help the poor, we need to encourage people with capital to risk it by engaging in enterprises for profit. That is what causes workers to be hired and wealth to be created – forming valuable products and services through ingenuity and labor. Workers who build skills and experience while working have more confidence and can be more productive, making them more free because they can succeed independently of government handouts.
Filed under: Commentary, Debt, Deficit, Democrat, Economy, Government, Illinois, Jobs, John Kasich, Ohio, Pat Quinn, Pensions, Republican, Scott Walker, Spending, State, Tax Cuts, Tax Hikes, Tax Increases, Tax Policy, Unemployment, Unions, Wisconsin