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The trouble ahead *** UPDATED x1 ***

Friday, Feb 27, 2009

* The Daily Herald editorializes in favor of mostly cosmetic budget cuts

Start with furlough days. Cut or trim former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s expansion of health-care coverage for families with six-figure incomes. End free mass transit for wealthy senior citizens. Look at raising the income qualifiers that give some senior citizens “circuit breaker” tax cuts.

Look at eliminating or combining some state agencies, like the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity which was omitted in a different form once before.

Like many suburbs have, scale back or close the state fair until we pay our debts. Edgar did that too.

While feel-good, none of these will truly amount to a hill of beans. And I’m pretty sure that Quinn will make cuts along these lines - relatively small things that will get big media coverage and positive editorials.

The editorial is entitled: “Show us you’ll make tough cuts first,” but it demonstrates how difficult it really is to actually cut our way out of this mess.

“End free mass transit for wealthy senior citizens”? So, transit agencies will have to check everyone’s IRS returns?

“Cut or trim former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s expansion of health-care coverage for families with six-figure incomes”? That’s about ten bucks.

And isn’t it a little silly to argue for tiny cuts like this in order to justify huge tax hikes?

* And what happens when small cuts are made? Furor

It never made sense for Illinois to close seven state parks, but then there were many things Rod Blagojevich did that never made sense.

Gov. Pat Quinn fulfilled a promise and undid one of his predecessor’s mistakes today when he reopened Castle Rock, Lowden and five other state parks.

I didn’t agree with the park closures, either, but they were exactly the sort of “tough” cuts that the DH is arguing for.

This isn’t gonna be easy at all because logic gets tossed right out the window.

*** UPDATE *** Another case in point

So you think your property taxes are too high and want to appeal? Doing so will cost you at least 25 bucks if a state agency that handles appeals gets its way.

In a formal legal notice filed Friday, the state Property Tax Appeals Board, known as PTAB, said it intends to begin charging from $25 for fairly small appeals filed by homeowners to as much as $450 for multi-million-dollar cases filed by factory and office-tower owners. […]

[PTAB Executive Director Louis Apostol said] the agency’s budget is half of what it was in 2003, when Cook County Assessor James Houlihan engineered a roughly 50% cut in the agency’s budget in an attempt to limit its jurisdiction to areas of the state outside of Cook County. […]

But Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a Chicago watchdog and tax-policy group, said PTAB needs to specifically spell out what property owners will get for their money and even then could face his opposition.

“PTAB is known as the ‘poor-person’s court’,” Mr. Msall said. “This has the potential to restrict access to PTAB.”

People are really gonna hate that move, but where the heck else is the money going to come from after PTAB’s budget was slashed?

* Related…

* Lawmakers move to launch hospital assessment program

* Quinn turns thumbs down on gas tax hike idea

* Quinn hopes to reopen Dana-Thomas House

* With parks reopened, Gov. Quinn wants to do same with historic sites

* Quinn opens parks, fixes boneheaded Blagojevich decision

* Petition-drive leaders help reopen park after Quinn’s announcement

* Illinois reopens 7 state parks

* Gov to reopen 7 state parks including Lowden

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 11:28 am:

    Rich -

    I think that fully-funding state parks with user fees makes more sense. Its enabled Michigan and Wisconsin to create state park systems that are far superior.

  2. - Segatari - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 11:30 am:

    >Like many suburbs have, scale back or close the state fair until we pay our debts. Edgar did that too.

    Doesn’t the state fair EARN money? Did the state fair operate at a loss at any time in the last ten years

  3. - He Makes Ryan Look Like a Saint - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 11:40 am:

    How much money will the Furloughs save? About a spit in a 5 gallon bucket? I saw one guy suggest to save Education $$ merge school districts thus cutting half the Administrative staffs especially the Sups.

    This is going to require a tax increase. The bleeding is too bad to put a band-aid on.

  4. - Cynic - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 11:43 am:

    Agree with YDD. The parks need to be self-sustaining. Moreover, even though the move may have been political, the fact is tough decision must be made and while park cutbacks might not have been so high on my list, it’s defensible in these economic time. I look at the decision as a bad sign; one that Quinn will not stand up to AFSCME.

    Still think that Quinn need to do more cutting in-house, namely by ridding the state of the Blago cronies, who not only fail to earn their salaries, but who often make jobs harder for others (a double-whammy, if you will). He might want to look at the recent Sun-Times article for a road map on who needs to be axed. I know that at least one has been axed, but he has dead weight that should be cut immediately.

    The failure to take more swift and definitive action leads me to believe that people are still being protected by their political “sponsors.” Quinn needs to send a signal that business as usual will not be tolerated.

  5. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 11:49 am:

    In line with the Daily Herald’s editorial board, I have the followng suggestion to eliminate what might be an $11.5 billion deficit:

    We can put on a show.

    My Aunt Rosie will help make the costumes and my Uncle Jed will let us use the barn. We can sell cookies, lemonade….

    Why do those guys abuse blank computer screens like that? They obviously don’t have a clue as to what the components of the budget.

  6. - anon414 - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 11:51 am:

    I don’t understand why when one division of the state owns a building like secty of state why other state agencies lease the buildings? why not apply that money to the state debt. The state owns it the state owns it.

  7. - VanillaMan - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 11:55 am:

    This isn’t gonna be easy at all because logic gets tossed right out the window.

    Sorry to be emotional and not logical, but I believe some emotions to be justified at a time like this. Emotions got us into this mess, and displaying them now would add some nice balance.

    Do the small cuts, do the showy cuts, do the PR cuts - then keep it up. NO - we can’t cut $9 Billion out of the budget - NO we can’t cut our way out of this mess. But this state government fiasco is caused by a mentality that should have ended three years ago when our money pit was too deep for us to fill; now it is too deep for our children…

    Illinois’ state leaders have to call a new tune, and they need to do it just as effectively as the tune they have been singing out for a decade, “Consider Yourself”, from the musical Oliver:

    DODGER: Consider yourself at home.
    Consider yourself one of the family.
    We’ve taken to you so strong,
    It’s clear we’re going to get along.
    Consider yourself well in.
    Consider yourself part of the furniture.
    There isn’t a lot to spare.
    Who cares? Whatever we got we share!

    If it should chance to be
    We should see
    Some harder days,
    Empty-larder days,
    Why grouse?
    Always a chance we’ll meet
    Somebody to foot the bill,
    Then the drinks are on the house!
    Consider yourself our mate.
    We don’t want to have no fuss,
    For after some consideration, we can state
    Consider yourself
    One of us!

    Illinois needs leaders capable of displaying some leadership during these hard times. We haven’t seen anything like this. We have another multi-trillion dollar version of this old Oliver song being sung right now in Washington DC.

    It is easy to sell supposedly free things, but there has never been anything free, and it has all been one grand lie. Blagojevich decided that the time to raid the cupboard was back in 2003. Blagojevich and the Illinois Democrats proclaimed numerous public disasters in order to justify their spendings. Now - we have a real disaster, and the “legislators who cried wolf”, are out of ideas, as well as our money.

    We are sinking. Throw overboard whatever it takes. We’ll start small, but it is the action itself that moves us in the right direction. After we’ve gotten rid of the easy stuff, then we’ll start with the more difficult choices.

    But we will not get anything done arguing which “step one” is the most effective. We have a lot of steps to go. And we’ll be a little emotional about it, sorry.

  8. - George - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 11:56 am:

    “I think that fully-funding state parks with user fees makes more sense.”

    I think Rod tried to do that, too, to a similar uproar.

  9. - Concerned Observer - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 12:15 pm:

    VanMan –

    When I was taking entry-level polisci at SIU, I had a TA say to me after reading one of my papers, “You could be very, very dangerous…if you weren’t so angry.”

    I’d pass the same thing to you ;) Not everything needs to be an eight-paragraph diatribe. It’s not that we disagree — we usually don’t — but sometimes the message can get lost a bit.

    Also, HMRLLAS: What’s wrong with consolidating school districts? That certainly wouldn’t get us all the way there, but it would help a bit, wouldn’t it?

  10. - George - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 12:33 pm:

    “People are really gonna hate that move, but where the heck else is the money going to come from after PTAB’s budget was slashed?”

    Its simple - don’t charge it for any property worth less than $500,000. And then raise it for those above.

    Or, have it be $25 for residential property (above $500,000), and have it be on a sliding scale for commercial property based on the value of the property being appealed.

    I would be pissed if I had to pay the same $25 to file an appeal on my $3,000 property tax bill as, say, the Sears Tower did on their $12 million property tax bill.

    I say the Sears Tower can afford to pay $5,000-$25,000 to appeal their property tax (since they are talking millions of dollars in discounts if successful). This also might curtail the practice of well-off commercial properties “automatically appealing” their assessment.

    There Is a right way and wrong way to tackle the problem.

  11. - Frank Booth - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 12:33 pm:

    It loses millions. Here’s the link to the Auditor General’s audit:

    Skip to pg. 19 for the financial breakdown.
    Here’s the summary:
    2005: expenditures exceeded revenues by $3.3 million
    2006: expenditures exceeded revenues by $3.8 million
    2007: expenditures exceeded revenues by $3.4 million

  12. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 12:36 pm:

    So, shutting down the State Fair saves a few million dollars. Congratulations. What a wonderful idea. Now, we can increase taxes and know we’ve all made proper sacrifices.

  13. - 618er - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 12:37 pm:

    it justifies their existance or at least a division within. Case in point. All of the building managers at the agencies got rolled under CMS when CMS took the buildings. All of the CMS Building managers got consolidated and moved to a single location, DNR I think, so when DHS, or DOT had a problem, they had to contact their building manager out at DNR.
    The money that the agencies pay to ‘lease’ various thing that they once owned, buildings, computers, etc is probably a pretty large number indeed.

  14. - Anonymous - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 12:48 pm:

    Cynic you’re spot on. Lots more in house cutting should be done. Just because it won’t solve the whole problem doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.

    I was going to agree with Vanilla Man but then he put another one of those stupid songs in the middle of his post and I can’t get it out of my head.

  15. - Segatari - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 12:48 pm:

    If you’re gonna shut down the state fair it would best be for retooling it because you believe it’s been on the decline for the past few years. Surprised they’ve not raised the three dollar admission price as a means to make up some funds.

  16. - Frank Booth - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 12:52 pm:

    So Rich, are you saying you think every state government activity and function no matter how great or small is 100 percent valuable and there should be no cuts anywhere? If not now, when would be the appropriate time to review state spending? Or should we all just throw up our hands and hand over our wallets to the state government that knows best?
    It’s like pleading poverty at home with a mini-dish on your roof. No, cutting Dish-TV isn’t going to keep you in your house, but it might make someone take your claims of poverty seriously for a change.
    It’s called sacrifice. It’s about being taken seriously. It’s about showing you’re willing to cut sacred cows before you ask people to pay more.
    Every million saved through cuts is a million you don’t have to raise in taxes.
    And I like the State Fair as much as anybody, but would the world end if Fergie or Brooks and Dunn didn’t perform this year?

  17. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 12:55 pm:

    ===Every million saved through cuts is a million you don’t have to raise in taxes.===

    I think that’s mostly a misnomer. Are we gonna raise the income tax by 1.997 points instead of 2 points because we cut the state fair and health care for high income people?

  18. - Leave a light on George - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 12:58 pm:

    Hey that was me at anonymous 12:48 pm. Don’t know what happend.

  19. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 1:01 pm:

    ===are you saying you think every state government activity and function no matter how great or small is 100 percent valuable and there should be no cuts anywhere?===

    Absolutely not. But my view of what should be preserved or only cut somewhat will undoubtedly be different from someone else’s.

  20. - Frank Booth - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 1:02 pm:

    C’mon, state government is run by misnomers. Don’t try to now say this is an exact science. I’m talking about perception in order to convince the masses that the state does indeed need more money just to provide the basics.
    Of course if no one cares about what the voting masses think and are all just resigned to losing next round, cut nothing and raise taxes.
    It’ll balance the budget and get a new crop of lawmakers.
    That might indeed be best for everyone in the long run.

  21. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 1:05 pm:

    ===I’m talking about perception in order to convince the masses that the state does indeed need more money just to provide the basics.===

    More like convincing editorial writers, who will then tell the masses that all is well, when it’s not.

    Perceptions won’t solve our budget problems. The DH shoulda come out with at least one really big, meaningful cut.

    Also, I’d be more convinced they were serious if they had supported repealing the ink and newsprint sales tax exemption and the official notice publishing requirements for governments. lol

  22. - Mike Murray - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 1:06 pm:


  23. - Frank Booth - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 1:19 pm:

    You mean a meaningful cut like, perhaps, limiting state government to one Cap Fax subscription?

  24. - Mike Murray - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 1:21 pm:

    LOL, clever

  25. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 1:22 pm:

    LOL. Sure as long as it’s one big subscription price. :)

    If the Illinois Press Association successfully lobbies to eliminiate the tax exemptions and publishing requirements and any other gvt subsidies of the newspaper industry that I’m missing here, I will lobby for that.

  26. - Frank Booth - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 1:27 pm:

    OK, I must declare talks at an impasse.
    While this is a far more intelligent discussion than most I’ve had on the budget, I must get some work done.
    And it’s your blog so you’ll never admit defeat no matter how right I am.

  27. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 1:46 pm:

    === And it’s your blog so you’ll never admit defeat no matter how right I am.===

    You’re a bright person, FB. lol

  28. - Redbright - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 2:07 pm:

    I know this is not state budget $ but it is IL taxpayer $: Eliminate townships. If there are actual activities being performed by a township, merge it into the county or the state. This would result in some tax reduction for citizens……and we are down to looking for solutions hidden in the nooks and crannies.

  29. - Cynic - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 2:41 pm:

    @ Rich — I’m reminded of an old saying “a million here and a million there and sooner or later, you’re talking about real money.”

    Look, making small spending cuts isn’t sexy, but it’s important. We already get taxed to death in this state, especially in Chicago/Cook — we pay the highest sales tax in the nation. Though I understand the state needs more revenue, Quinn needs to do everything he can to clean up state government before he reaches into our pockets.

  30. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 2:55 pm:

    If you cut the parks that were reopened and the State Fair you save max $6 million. The deficit is $9 to $11.5 billion. Learn the difference between M and B.

    Folks, you’re talking pennies about maintaining our common legacy and culture. Not to mention parks and the state fair generate tax revenue and jobs not reflected in your bean-counting.

    By your logic, we should sell the state for scrap and move. If you want to cut, quit fooling around, show some guts and start talking about K-12, Health, and Public Aid. If not, knock it off.

  31. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 3:08 pm:

    I guess it’s understandable:

    On the federal level, we had eight years where we were told we could fight two wars, have pork barrel trans. and farm bills, add prescription drugs to Medicare and cut taxes. On the state level, we could add health care for everyone, give free rides and not raise taxes.

    Gotta sober up sometime, folks. Real cuts or real taxes or real both.

  32. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 4:23 pm:

    Some earlier poster wrote that Quinn re-opened the state parks because he can’t stand up to AFSCME.

    That’s absurd.

    Quinn re-opened the state parks because he considers it an environmental issue.

    The guy championed bald eagles as Lt. Governor and went on an “Eagle Tour”, fer pete’s sake. What did you expect?


    You’re right. Its put-up or shut-up time.

    I propose immediately releasing all non-violent drug offenders from the Illinois state prison system into electronic monitoring, saving $300 MILLION a YEAR.

    I propose cutting the “Economic Development” portion of DCEO’s budget by 1 BILLION.

    $1.2 BILLION was budgeted, but only $191 Million has been spent YTD, because no one is expanding in this economy.

    I’d move a SMALL portion of that $1 BILLION, maybe $50 Million, into workforce training, with some of it targeted to adult literacy.

  33. - Angry Chicagoan - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 4:34 pm:

    No way, no how, can this be done without major tax increases. We can do all kinds of things I think would be a good idea, like ending free transit rides for the least-poor demographic group in the state, and we can go through the ridiculous laundry list the Daily Herald did, and we’re still talking at best a nine-figure solution to an eleven-figure deficit.

    Gutting Medicaid to the federal minimum won’t even solve this crisis. Abdication from the state pension system won’t solve it either.

    I see a two percent hike in the income tax simply to re-establish balance, especially if it’s accompanied by progressive tax-breaks such as increasing the personal exemption to something meaningful.

  34. - WindyCityGardener - Friday, Feb 27, 09 @ 8:31 pm:

    I suggest more accountability for government workers. Perhaps they can use more pool cars instead of taking home state vehicles. Some state agencies do not have time clocks. Employees come and go as they please. They will tell you they can’t punch a clock because they are working in the field and they need to have their own private state vehicle. They also count their drive time to and from the work-site as part of their 7.5 hr. shift. This is just a small sampling of whats wrong with government.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* One more day
* Reader comments closed for the weekend
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