Illinois needs a new Constitution to get out of its financial mess

At a constitutional convention, everything would be on the table — education, health care, finances, taxes, pensions and criminal justice reform.

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Delegates at the 1969 Illinois Constitutional Convention.

Chicago Sun Times

The failure of the graduated income tax amendment brings further financial trouble for Illinois. To alleviate budget shortfalls, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said this week “there will be cuts, and they will be painful.” In addition, Moody’s, the credit ratings service, has suggested that Illinois should raise its flat income tax to 5.65% from 4.95%.

In sum, it’s Groundhog Day in Illinois. The state’s finances are bad, and there are only two options: cut expenditures and raise taxes.

Or maybe not. Perhaps there is a more long-term solution, a couple of years away.

How about a new Constitution?

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If three-fifths of both the Illinois House and Senate vote to call a constitutional convention, then at the next general election (if there are at least six months until the next general election) the electorate (that’s us) gets to decide whether there should be a convention. At least 60% of those voting on that specific question or a majority of those voting in the entire election would have to vote yes.

If the Legislature does not put the call for a Con-Con on the ballot for 20 years, the question automatically goes on the ballot. The last time the people of Illinois voted on whether to hold a Con-Con was in 2008, and a majority voted no. So the earliest the question will go on the ballot, if the Legislature does not act before then, is 2028.

The Legislature should put the question to the voters in the 2022 election.

Why have a Con-Con?

Because, in short, when there is a constitutional convention, everything is up for grabs. The entire Illinois Constitution can be rewritten.

Education, health care, finances, taxes, pensions, criminal justice reform — everything is on the table. Then, once the convention has been concluded, the people of Illinois get to vote on whether to approve any of changes decided at the convention.

Illinois has been governed under four constitutions, enacted in 1818, 1848, 1870 and 1970. Our state’s Constitution has evolved over time to better fit changing times and a changing Illinois.

I’m ready for the fifth Constitution. Are you?

Joshua Richards, South Loop

A new tone

A friend from England just wrote to me to say that Joe Biden sounds like a statesman when he speaks. Welcome back, America!

Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow, Lake View

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