* Either the Tribune editorial board is ignorant or it is lying. Heck, maybe both…
Quinn’s budget director, Jerry Stermer, told a legislative committee Thursday that Illinois entered this fiscal year with $8 billion in unpaid bills — and will exit this fiscal year with $8 billion in unpaid bills. That’s almost as troubling as Stermer’s implication that the state with the nation’s worst credit rating ought to pay those bills by borrowing more billions:
“The governor’s interested in working with the General Assembly on a structured refinancing of this huge amount of unpaid bills, payables, and we plan to come to the General Assembly with a proposal in the next number of weeks to consider a refinancing of some of that.”
Quinn’s office later stepped that back, saying the governor has no borrowing plan now, has always seen more borrowing as a possibility and is focused on pension reform. Too late: Several House members had nodded appreciatively when Stermer evoked the spirit of new borrowing — a spirit we hoped had died in 2011 when Quinn last floated the idea. Somewhere in his makeup, though, lies a diabolical gene that makes him see bonded debt as an acceptable way to pay for operating expenses, old bills included. As if it’s OK to take out a mortgage to cover groceries. […]
Never forget what Democratic leaders promised the night of 1/11/11, when they jammed that temporary, 2-percentage-point income tax increase through the General Assembly: The point, they assured, was to pay for pensions without borrowing, to pay down debt, to pay old bills.
A “diabolical gene.” Sheesh. These guys are the biggest drama queens in the entire state. Take a breath, already.
* But, let’s get to the lies/ignorance…
1) Borrowing to pay old bills is not akin to taking out a mortgage “to cover groceries.” Illinois is so far behind on its bills that it’ll take years to pay off vendors. Bonding will do three things: Pay off those much-needed vendors; Inject a ton of cash into the economy; Force legitimate state spending cuts of about a billion dollars a year to pay for the bonds.
2) The tax hike law includes language that sets aside a portion of the proceeds to help fund bonding for old bills. That’s what the legislative leaders were talking about. The Tribune should read its own archives, for crying out loud.
Bonding is not an ideal solution. No doubt about it. I don’t even expect the Tribune to support it. But they ought to at least be honest about their opposition.
We as a state are already borrowing from vendors. And those vendors - which are mainly small businesses and not-for-profits - shouldn’t be used as banks. Unless the Tribune can come up with $7-9 billion in real state budget cuts to free up the money to pay off all the vendors next fiscal year, it ought to shut the heck up.
* Other stuff…
* Fiscal cliff could cost Illinois more than $1 billion: But it’s possible the backlog could grow even larger if the fiscal cliff is reached, according to revenue officials, who say the state could lose $1 billion. That’s because federal tax increases that would automatically go into effect would send a ripple through the state’s economy, leaving less money for people to spend and resulting in less tax revenue for the state.
* Lawmakers consider state employee wage cap: Bayer said the average pay for a state worker in Illinois is $60,292, less than that in Iowa or Minnesota.
* Illinois takes another step toward health exchange: The exchange, which will be run by the federal government in 2014, is an electronic marketplace to buy insurance. Gelder describes one example of how he saw it work recently in Massachusetts. “An individual knowing her zip code, whether she was a smoker or not, and what sort of health insurance she was interested in could actually go through the options available to her and select the one she could afford and be enrolled with insurance in 20 minutes,” he said.
* Editorial: A last straw? Billboards to balance budget
* Charters not immune from closings, CPS says - Chicago Public Schools officials say they plan to get tough with privately run charter schools that are failing academically this year and could shut down those that aren’t making the grade.