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Worst. Budget. Ever. But nobody has another plan

Friday, May 7, 2010

* Almost always, outsiders can never quite comprehend Illinois. But Amy Merrick at the Wall Street Journal did a bang-up job today with the budget mess

Illinois lawmakers were in disarray Thursday as they groped for stopgap measures to address a $13 billion deficit equaling nearly half of the state’s general-fund revenue.

The state faces one of the nation’s worst budget crises, spilled over in part from the broader national economic crunch, and its current bond ratings lag only California’s. But the confusion in the legislature indicates that serious steps to fix state finances won’t be taken until after the November elections—if then.

Illinois lawmakers have little appetite for drastic spending cuts. An income-tax increase proposed by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is going nowhere. Even temporary steps, such as borrowing to make pension payments, have stalled. Illinois is months late on many of its bills and has no plan for catching up.

The legislature may push the problem to the governor’s office by granting Mr. Quinn emergency budget powers and adjourning Friday, about three weeks earlier than usual. A bill under consideration in the state House would give Mr. Quinn greater leeway to shift money among state funds and to require agencies to set aside part of their budgets now in case of future cuts.

…Adding… Ms. Merrick just sent me a note saying she’s an “Illinois lifer” who has covered the state and region for 10 years. I shoulda known her quality piece could never have been written by an outsider.

* This is just a perfectly awful mess

The two parties are so divided that they couldn’t even agree on whether the measure would raise or lower state spending. Trotter said it would reduce spending by about $2 billion but provided no details to support that claim.

And, of course, there’s this

House Democrats are poised to drop an ugly inaugural gift into the lap of the next governor by considering a plan to delay making a $3.7 billion payment to the state pension until next January.

The ugly but undeniable truth is that borrowing to make the pension payments is actually less expensive and far more responsible than this “suspension” of the pension payments until January…

Pension officials object. They note that delaying the payment means giving up months worth of interest that could be collected if the $3.7 billion were invested.

To keep checks going out to retirees, the pension systems probably will have to spend between $100 million and $200 million of their assets, said William Atwood, executive director of the Illinois State Board of Investment. That would put the systems, already underfunded by about $80 billion, even further behind.

Atwood said he also worries January will arrive and officials still won’t be able to find the pension money. The retirement systems could end up with no money at all, he said.

I’ve actually heard a lower number than this, but the Tribune says the cost of the delay is “up to $37 billion in lost investment earnings over the next 35 years.” Borrowing the $4 billion or so and paying it back over 8 years would cost a tiny fraction of that.

* Last night’s most worthless moment

As part of the political posturing, Senate Democrats pushed a plan that called for eliminating Senate GOP projects funded under last year’s massive public works bill. It was an attempt by Democrats, tired of Republican complaints of overspending, to make GOP senators vote to restore their pet projects.

“You like pork when you’re eating it,” Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, told Republicans.

Senate Republicans accused Democrats of violating a deal made to authorize the projects last year when some of them voted to legalize video poker in bars and restaurants as part of a public works program.

Republicans also were stung that the move came while Senate GOP leader Christine Radogno of Lemont was absent, attending her daughter’s college graduation in Colorado. That set up an odd situation later when Cullerton asked his Democratic members to vote to restore the $100 million in GOP projects to the budget, while Republicans voted to eliminate them.

All that griping, fighting and gnashing of teeth for nothing.

* Budget director David Vaught gets our quote of the day award

“Let’s get real here,” Vaught said. “We’re out of money.”

Yeah, no kidding.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Sen. Bill Brady is the runner up

Asked later why he chose not to participate in the [Senate budget] debate, Brady said, “I didn’t find anything worth speaking to.”

When pressed on the question, Brady walked away from reporters outside the Senate chamber, saying only, “Thanks.”

And Sen. Trotter is second runner-up

“We thought we had met the depths of how low we can go last year,” said state Sen. Donne Trotter of Chicago, a chief budget negotiator for the Democrats. “That has certainly played out that we can get even lower.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

63 Comments
  1. - Six Degrees of Separation - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:04 am:

    Never let a crisis go to waste.


  2. - Montrose - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:05 am:

    At least last year I felt like a good chunk of legislators cared. That they were actually willing to put up a fight for new revenue. This year, the level of resignation and denial is beyond infuriating.

    You thought we had a doomsday budget last year? Wait until we see the types of line items cuts Quinn will have to make when this lump sum -lump being a great word right now - budget lands with a thud on his desk.

    Also, Brady does realize that if he gets what he wants, he will actually have to deal with this mess as the Governor, right?


  3. - Cincinnatus - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:06 am:

    Given that Democrats are in TOTAL control of the state government and the tail-wagging city of Chicago, I ask the dear readers of this blog: “What should Republicans do to aid the Illinois financial crisis?”


  4. - Double D - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:10 am:

    Ok maybe the Dems have control…but this whole mess has been around for a long long time…and Gov. Ryan has his share of cronies on the dole too. We need term limits, we need to look at every position line by line, and we need to be able to SAY NO and mean it. Once we get some control on the size then we can start to ask for more money…but throwing good money at a bad situation only makes it worse.


  5. - just sayin' - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:13 am:

    Between the Republicans and Democrats, it’s hard to say who is more worthless.

    Other than emitting carbon dioxide which is essential to plant life, what do these guys and gals do exactly in Springfield?

    Maybe the hooker abusing pawnbroker has a chance afterall.


  6. - Deep South - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:15 am:

    The Dems in TOTAL control? Not really. They’re so afraid of what the Republicans might or might not do, so they don’t do anything. Now, really, who’s in control?


  7. - One of the 35 - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:18 am:

    I think we have to put this in perspective. The really mportant thing is that the General Assembly adjourn by May 7th. Everyting else is secondary.


  8. - wordslinger - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:19 am:

    THe WSJ article is excellent, particularly as it points out every state is dealing with a degree of the same problem in the same ways.

    I disagree with the contention that Illinois GA members are confused as to what they’re doing. They know exactly what they’re doing: making the problem worse. That’s how they want it right now, for their own reasons.


  9. - Mr. Ethics - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:20 am:

    Is Illinois too big to fail?


  10. - Heartless Libertarian - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:25 am:

    I think Brady’s reaction is due, in large part, to the fact that he is still left out of the process along with the rest of the republicans. The democratic leaders seem to not want any help with this, simply because the republican response is to cut, cut, cut. Which, with a $13 billion deficit it makes enough sense to warrant cuts. Some drastic cuts, in fact. But, the budget problems appear to be so massive, nobody can put together a comprehensive plan that could get us out of this mess.


  11. - Jonathan Goldman - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:27 am:

    Here’s one more piece of the mess. There are provisions in the Emergency Budget Act dealing with furlough days, and the way it’s written the legislators take a smaller salary hit than anyone else based on how it’s calculated, even though it’s the same number of days (one per month).

    For legislators, they lose 1/365 of their salary for each of their monthly furlough days.

    For the constitutionals, department heads, members of boards and commissions, etc, they lose 1/261 of their salary for each day.

    If you do the math, it works out to a 3.3% reduction for legislators but 4.6% reduction for everyone else.

    It is standard to calculate one day’s pay from salary by dividing it by the number of business days in a year - typically 260. Just ask the Illinois Department of Labor.

    This is totally and utterly unconscionable. The even greater irony is that legislators are part-time, and arguably should be using a number less than 260 to calculate this, maybe the average number of session days in a year?

    It’s in SB 3660, pages 34 and 45.


  12. - Small Town Liberal - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:27 am:

    That would be a great campaign slogan for Brady “Since my party is in the minority I’m going to sit on the sidelines and cry”


  13. - Linus - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:28 am:

    Two heartfelt questions (and a Hail Mary pass) for any legislators who happen to be reading this today while sitting in caucus or committee or on the floor:

    Are you proud of what you’re doing for your constituents (not to mention your reputation)?

    If not - what are you doing to improve things?

    Elected leaders were elected to lead, by their voters and communities.

    Legislative leaders were elected only by their caucuses.

    You gave ‘em the power. If they’re abusing it, take it back. It doesn’t take that many of you, today, to form a bloc and a block!


  14. - wordslinger - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:32 am:

    I think Candidate Brady is listening to his handlers. Stay on message, and we’ll tell you what the message is. No freelancing.

    He nimbly ducked a question on the Arizona immigration law the other day.


  15. - Leroy - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:33 am:

    I think the only way out of this is to elect Bill Brady governor, then spend the next 4 years demonizing him a la Blago.

    Let him make the nuclear cuts, scapegoat him into impeachment a year or two in, then promise the dependent class we are going to rebuild.

    Of course, the rebuild will be slow and painful, and won’t be anywhere near where we once were, but the masses should be appeased, and life in Illinois can go on once more.

    I call this the “Marie Antoinette” Plan.


  16. - Rich Miller - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:39 am:

    ===“What should Republicans do to aid the Illinois financial crisis?” ===

    Put state before party. Which is what the Democrats should do.


  17. - Tom Joad - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:39 am:

    Why didn’t Brady push his 10% solution to the crisis? Apparently he is afraid to face questioning by legislators who can pose realistic questions about the flaws in his plan. he will have to face them sooner rather than later.


  18. - Vole - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:48 am:

    How can anyone call this a budget?

    Passing all the burden to Quinn amounts to an abdication of all representative and leadership responsibilities.

    What legal authority do the citizens have to force our “representatives” to keep their sorry butts in springpatch until they earn their pay?
    Their concerted and deliberate paralysis is beyond any words to measure.


  19. - dupage dan - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:53 am:

    If the state is in such dire straits and providers are not being paid, how is it that an agency that provides care for persons w/developmental disabilities (St Coletta’s) got about 1/2 of the back log in payments (1.5mil) taken care of? This fine organization was out of cash reserves and had no more ability to borrow to fund operating expenses and had just announced they were going to have to ask staff to accept IOUs instead of paychecks were suddenly given a check by the comptroller. How’d that happen?

    Don’t misunderstand me - St Coletta’s should be paid on time as should all others who contracted by the state to provide services. I just wanna know how they got to the front of the line. I’m sure all the other unpaid providers would like to know the secret, too.

    **===“What should Republicans do to aid the Illinois financial crisis?” ===

    Put state before party. Which is what the Democrats should do. **

    There appears to be little trust left between the parties. How do you expect the GOP to put ANY trust in the democrats when they pull such a stunt? I expect this kind of behavior from scheming 7th graders, not adults facing disaster.


  20. - Rich Miller - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:56 am:

    ===How’d that happen?===

    There’s a special emergency program for folks like that. It’s not news.


  21. - Montrose - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:57 am:

    **Don’t misunderstand me - St Coletta’s should be paid on time as should all others who contracted by the state to provide services. I just wanna know how they got to the front of the line. I’m sure all the other unpaid providers would like to know the secret, too.**

    I have heard a few stories like this in the past year where a social service provider is seemingly hours from a drastic measure, including closing their doors, and that is when they get paid. I think it comes down to a sad, informal triage by the comptroller’s office. It is a poster child for how messed up our state is.


  22. - Survivor - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:02 am:

    We’ve all been down this road before with the budget. I agree this is the worst, but we can’t give up and quit now. We need to continue to push legislators to “do the right thing” by taking a look at term limits, holding the line on their salary increases and cutting costs outside of human services. There is strength in numbers, as we’ll see in November.


  23. - Logical Thinker - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:02 am:

    Will the last taxpayer left in Illinois please turn out the lights when they leave?

    We’re delaying the inevitable. The day of reckoning is coming; there is no way around that and no magic formula that is going to save us. The smart ones see it and will leave the state before it gets too bad.

    It’s scary, fascinating, and downright depressing think about what the future economic condition of this state will be in 10 years.


  24. - A.B. - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:03 am:

    Are there people here who are actually trying to tie this to Republicans?

    George Ryan, REALLY? You’ve had 8 years to address this issue.

    - Democrats are making decisions based on fear of what Republicans will do? -
    This is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever seen! Did you eat lead paint, was your childhood a series of tumbles down the stairs without a helmet? How can you explain this blatantly stupid comment?

    Democrats have controlled the State of Illinois for almost a decade; for the last four years they’ve held every statewide office, a veto proof majority in the Senate and now in the House….

    They have had budget meetings without even allowing Republicans in the room!

    Democrats you took sole responsibility for government in Illinois and it looks pretty bad right now….guess what, DEAL WITH IT!

    Cuz this time next year, the Republicans will likely be dealing with fixing it.

    And Rich, to your point about putting State before Party, please just agree that statement should have been true for years if not decades, not just this year. (and yes both parties have been guilty over the decades)


  25. - the Patriot - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:05 am:

    Time to wake up. Brady has taken a beating because people say you can’t just cut 10%. Reality check. We are going to cut 10% either through the budget process or attrition. It is time for the legislators to sit down and do their job. If they don’t we are going to continue to lose programs and services because payments simply are not being made. It already happended in the schools.

    Basically the legislature can do the job or the comptroller gets to do it by deciding who gets paid and who doesn’t.

    Man up or resign. I don’t need government officials who refuse to try.


  26. - Captain Flume - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:18 am:

    “state before party”? What state? Whose or which party? Kind of like statesmanship over pandering. It’s our right to dream the impossible dream, but in Illinois those kind of dreams don’t come true. Sad to say.


  27. - Rich Miller - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:19 am:

    What state? Really? What the heck do you think we do here, goofball? Stop being so stupid and daft. i really have no time for that today.


  28. - Earnest - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:25 am:

    Expedited payment program utilized by St. Coletta’s is here: http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=31633

    They would have to have had a letter from their bank saying they would extend no more credit (or documentation of filing for bankruptcy), and document that they can’t keep going. At minimum a third of the human service providers in the state have had to walk up to the edge and hope the process works for them.


  29. - DuPage Dave - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:26 am:

    If Vaught gets the Quote of the Day award, Donne Trotter gets the Quote of the Session award: “We thought we had met the depths of how low we can go last year. That has certainly played out that we can get even lower.”

    Ethics Police: Please note that I’m on furlough today and this is not a state computer.


  30. - Bakersfield - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:39 am:

    So, in other words, we have a legislature that will only put the effort to get anything done every other year. Do I have that right? Can’t do anything in even years, so hope that in the odd years no one gets impeached or anything so we can actually make an effort.
    Can we pay them only every other year then?


  31. - Pot calling kettle - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:40 am:

    There’s plenty of blame to go around. Blaming the Democrats is appropriate because they are in control. Blaming the Republicans is appropriate because if the Democrats were to actually make the necessary cuts or pass the necessary tax increase, the Republicans would demonize them by claiming the actions were unnecessary. Blaming the voters/taxpayers is appropriate because most of the taxpayers insist on more services and lower taxes and are happy to follow the party that panders the most. The list goes on to local officials, unions, businesses, etc.

    Unfortunately, blaming and pandering have gotten us nowhere. I long for someone willing to stand up and lead. 1) Outline the cuts that have been already made. 2) Outline the necessary expenditures. 3) Raise taxes enough to cover expenses and pay off the debt.

    Brady did not speak on this because anyone who says Illinois does not need to raise taxes appears to be stupid or lying.

    There are cuts that could be made, but there are other areas that need to have funding restored. The budget has been made a mess though ad hoc cuts over the last 8-10 years.

    If you watch the debates over the last few days, legislators on the right and left have been bemoaning the lack of revenue. Call HB 174, vote on it, stop complaining.


  32. - Captain Flume - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:41 am:

    I was being snarky. Always time for that when talking about Illinois government.


  33. - Way Way Down Here - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:47 am:

    ==blaming and pandering==

    Good name for my new band.


  34. - steve schnorf - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:49 am:

    I think there are real misconceptions here. What can Republicans do? Republicans want to “cut, cut, cut”?

    I’ve probably missed some, but I’m not aware of a single significant cut Republicans have said they’ll support. That’s an important point. When the taxers (D) won’t tax and the cutters (R) won’t cut, there aren’t a lot of solutions left, are there?


  35. - Scooby - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:53 am:

    I take full responsibility for this mess. We spent so much time looking for the Magic Beans that I didn’t even think of Make Believe pension payments. I apologize.


  36. - Deep South - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:54 am:

    - Democrats are making decisions based on fear of what Republicans will do? -
    ===This is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever seen! Did you eat lead paint, was your childhood a series of tumbles down the stairs without a helmet? How can you explain this blatantly stupid comment?===

    I take it you’re a Republican.


  37. - A.B. - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:00 pm:

    Pot -

    I have to disagree with you on a tax increase being the answer.

    We have to remember that the economics of government are based on taxes, which are primarily based on the exchange of dollars between individuals, businesses, etc.

    So, at the most basic level, if Illinois were to take a strong, pro-business stance and enact legislation to create a pro-business state, we would encourage job growth and commerce, which would work towards filling our coffers.

    Unfortunately this state has spent decades spitting in the eye of the business community and we lose these dollars every day.

    Hell, it was just reported a few months ago that Abbott Labs in Lake County has purchased a large parcel of property in Wisconsin with the intent of potentially moving their operations across the cheddar curtain. In Peoria there are rumors that Caterpillar is considering relocation as well.

    These unfortunate situations are accentuated by the anti-business decisions this state has made for decades. Thus, a major reason for our enormous budget shortfalls.


  38. - Done - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:04 pm:

    The Democrat’s are in charge they have locked out the Republican’s. The Democrat’s are responsible for this mess which isn’t like the rest of the country where mortgages are upside down. The democrat’s inaction over the last 3 years as Quinn has fought for a tax increase and Madigan has worked to protect his majority ignoring the problems until the next election. The Democrat’s lack the political will to do what’s right except to attack their own base with Pension Cuts. This budget will do nothing to fix the budget; they will kick the can down the road not paying thousands of small businesses. Many of the small businesses that are owed money are small family owned businesses will they have cut thousands of employees, this is insanity? If the Democrats don’t want to do their jobs they need to get the hell out of the way and let someone else do it.


  39. - Double D - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:06 pm:

    I always love the anti-business mantra that is spouted…because we give business tax breaks and then when the taxes kick in they relocate…Business has been getting wealthy off others backs and the land forever. Stable taxes and predictability are what business needs. What exactly is the size of the Illinois economy…large enough that we should be able to figure out a way to deal with a 13 billion dollar debt (or can I just accidentally hit the wrong key and make it a 13 million dollar debt like they do on Wall Street)?


  40. - Pot calling kettle - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:07 pm:

    ==When the taxers (D) won’t tax and the cutters (R) won’t cut, there aren’t a lot of solutions left, are there?==

    Anyone who proposes a realistic budget solution (which would include cuts and taxes)will be immediately torn apart from both sides.


  41. - A.B. - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:07 pm:

    Deep South -

    A party in power, in this case almost absolute power, defines the debate. If they make good decisions and do what the public wants and expects, then they flourish.

    However, you don’t take (almost) absolute power and then not invite the minority party into the budget negotiations if you are scared of what they are going to do.

    Very basic strategy, if the minority party is in the discussion, you can then point to them and say, “they were there, they won’t work with us, their answers are flawed, etc.” That is the defensive posture, not what the majority party did in Illinois.

    Additionally, if you are the majority party in every office, etc. you aren’t worried about the opposition party because you don’t need them to pass your priorities.

    So in other words, you statement that the Democrats don’t have real power because they are afraid of the Republicans is absolutely ridiculous.


  42. - Pot calling kettle - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:09 pm:

    ==I have to disagree with you on a tax increase being the answer.==

    Please explain how you would fix this state’s budget without a tax increase. What would you cut and by how much to get to $6 Billion in a $28 billion budget?


  43. - VanillaMan - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:12 pm:

    Let’s try to remember what was supposed to happen eight years ago and why everything went south. We saw that we were spending more than we were bringing in a decade ago. What was supposed to happen was a guy named Rod Blagojevich was going to squeeze state government inefficiencies and waste out, hold the line on taxes and find new revenue streams. That is what he sold us in 2002. But the only thing he delivered on was the hold on taxes. He Mickey-Moused around trying to find “official state colas”, “rest area sponsors”, and sell off state assets like the Thompson Center. After a year, Blagojevich seemed to lose interest in looking for innovative non-tax revenue streams partly because of the flak he got whenever his administration would announce a proposal. Blagojevich was taking political hits over nickles and dimes.

    Rod Blagojevich wanted to become a White House occupant. To do this, he would sell himself as a Democrat who didn’t raise taxes from Illinois. He was to present himself as a 21st Century governor who handled the Ryan corruption.

    Instead of governing, he raised campaign funds for this White House bids. He raised thousands of dollars an hour making political deals. He raised thousands of dollars for personal gain, and the personal gains of his staffers. We know who is in prison, facing prison, and some who will face prison later on.

    You cannot run state government like this, even when times are good. For his political benefit, Rod Blagojevich locked down tax increases, chased every national issue from flu shots, steroid abuse, videogame violence, Morning After pills, and expanded health care coverage dramatically without a dime in revenue to pay for it. To attain his political goal, Rod Blagojevich assembled a budget bomb and lit a fuse long enough to give him sufficient time to escape to the Oval Office when it exploded.

    He didn’t make it. Not only did the budget bomb explode as expected by all, the Great Recession caused a fiscal implosion on top of it. Instead of escaping office for Washington DC with his company of theives, Blagojevich was forced to watch his political Ponzi scheme’s lit fuse reach it’s destination when he was finally perp walked after Obama’s election in 2008.

    So, unlike other US states facing tough economic times, Illinois has a bigger problem. The players involved in government policies since Mr. Blagojevich’s Gamble are still in power. The exact people who helped pull every block within each of Blagojevich’s pyramid schemes to build it, are still in charge. The current group of political leaders in Illinois are thoroughly discredited by their legislative and political history. As long as these people hold the keys to the state’s empty coffers, Illinoisans are naturally disinterested in filling those coffers while they hold those keys.

    Illinois need to see political reform. It needed to hear politicians apologizing for their roles in our “Lost Decade”. It needed to see a reformed group of leaders shove back the policy excesses unleashed by a corrupted White House Wanna-Be.

    Instead we have seen Senator Roland Burris, a Governor Quinn who flips more often than an orgasmic dolphin, and now - this. We will not see any improvements in Illinois government as long as the same players who wrought our long list of distresses turned out this November. Heaven help us if voters return these incumbants in sufficient numbers, rewarding them for their malgovernance, fingerpointing and incompetence.


  44. - reformer - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:13 pm:

    Cincinnatus: Republicans should opt for the far less expensive option of borrowing to pay the pension bill as opposed to deferring payment. (I’m assuming they also won’t vote to slash $4 billion from the budget.)


  45. - Deep South - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:18 pm:

    A.B.- Thanks for the civics lesson and the kinds words about me personally, but:

    It’s a two party system, governing is about compromise. The Republicans are saying “No, and if you go ahead an do it, we’ll make you pay.” They’re not saying, “Here’s an alternative, lets talk over the fine points and come up with meaningful legislation.” They’re saying “No. Period.” I mean, where is their alternative?

    So the Dems don’t do anything. Or say, “We’ll take it up after the election.” If the Dems have so much power, why don’t they pass a tax increase and say “Screw the Republicans, we’re in charge.”


  46. - WRMNPolitics - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:19 pm:

    Self preservation over public service is a large part of a long standing problem with Illinois government. This holds true for both parties, who have taken the stance that if you ignore or postpone action on a problem long enough, it will either go away or become to large to solve. Until legislators start talking about massive structural changes in programs, and rewriting an income tax system that is antiquated and filled with loopholes and preferences. The problem will continue.


  47. - reformer - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:20 pm:

    LINUS: Your quesion reminds me of a Mencken quote: “Every decent person is disgusted by the gov’t he lives under.”
    If legislators were to block the Senate plan, then what’s the game plan?


  48. - dupage dan - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:25 pm:

    So many voices continue to describe the mess we are in. Plenty of evidence that both sides of the political aisle are culpable. Plenty of evidence of the inability of the governor (pick one) to lead

    Great - many here who are smarter and more knowledgeable than I am have detailed the mess.

    The possible strategies are endless. Someone’s ox is gonna be gored no matter which way we turn.

    Now what?


  49. - A.B. - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:29 pm:

    Deep South -

    Alternatives have been offered time and again. Spend 30 minutes with Rep. Mark Beaubien and he’ll give you a list a mile long.

    Now to your point regarding the Dems, if a tax increase is their answer, then you are right, they should have passed it.

    However, what you are actually saying is that they have proven to be an ineffective group who cannot work within their own party to find compromise and answers. If, as Rich stated, it is state first and party second, then that is reality.

    However, if it is party first and state second, then they truly are the party of Blagojevich and more worried about reelection than what’s best for the populace.

    Now on to Illinois’ anti-business stance….don’t take my word for it:
    Forbes Magazine ranks Illinois 44th : http://www.forbes.com/2006/08/15/best-states-business_cz_kb_0815beststates.html

    CNBC ranks Illinois 25th http://www.cnbc.com/id/31765926

    Chief Executive Magazine ranks Illinois 46th http://www.chiefexecutive.net/media/usbestandworststates/2009/

    Now how exactly should we raise funds in Illinois?

    Take steps to change these numbers. Attract businesses and jobs, increase our tax revenue through commerce, not increasing the tax burden on struggling families.


  50. - Pot calling kettle - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:46 pm:

    ==We will not see any improvements in Illinois government as long as the same players who wrought our long list of distresses turned out this November.==

    Agreed. Unfortunately, neither Brady nor Quinn will change the game. And it’s hard to imaging new legislative leaders. (Last year, I felt like Cullerton and Radogno had potential.)


  51. - Cincinnatus - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:54 pm:

    Maybe a debt commission approach may work, 6 Repubs, 6 Dems, goal of balanced budget in 5 years, straight up or down vote in legislature. I volunteer.


  52. - D.P. Gumby - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 1:03 pm:

    How can the Repubs claim to be “locked out” when they won’t contribute anything when they’re in the room? The leaders of both parties are captive of the extreme right wing who are irrational and uninterested in public policy beyond not paying taxes, preventing a woman’s right to choose and being homophobic.


  53. - lincolnlover - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 1:10 pm:

    Am I missing something? Why do we keep talking about “democrats and republicans” when the only person who has any real control is Madigan? Is it too simplistic to say that Madigan makes all the budget decisions for this state on his own and we are at his whim?


  54. - Deep South - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 1:26 pm:

    Mr. Gumby:

    My point exactly.


  55. - 47th Ward - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 1:31 pm:

    ===Is it too simplistic to say that Madigan makes all the budget decisions for this state on his own and we are at his whim?===

    Yes.

    It comes down to votes people. There are not enough votes for a major tax increase. There are not enough votes for major cuts. There are not enough votes for more borrowing.

    That isn’t Madigan’s fault. It is a collective fault of those who put the interests of the public behind their own self-interest. It is bi-partisan friends, and it needs to stop.


  56. - Confused - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 1:33 pm:

    ==This holds true for both parties, who have taken the stance that if you ignore or postpone action on a problem long enough, it will either go away or become to large to solve.==

    Couldn’t have said it better. Does anyone think we will ever make a dent in the National debt? It’s almost at 13 trillion dollars! Politicians always talk about “reducing the deficit” as if it’s a normal thing to have a deficit. I know I can’t run my personal finances that way. My income has not increased in years, yet my bills have. Yet I still find a way to balance my personal budget.

    I honestly believe that our politicians are just trying to buy enough time to make themselves comfortable so that when it does all crash, that they will be okay. They’ve let it get so far out of hand it will only be “fixed” by a complete meltdown and starting over as a 2nd world country, similar to the republics of the former soviet union. Our current politicians (all parties) have no vision and no guts to do anything that actually helps the future.


  57. - Loop Lady - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 2:03 pm:

    Dear 47th: I concur. Time to change the game…the first step is to rid IL of King Mike Madigan, and his little daughter too…(see the Trib’s political cartoon today)…


  58. - lincolnlover - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 2:14 pm:

    But whatever Madigan says goes. If he told the rest to vote for a tax increase, they would. I agree that the rest are self-interested hacks who need to be voted out, but if Madigan doesn’t go with them, it will all be in vain.


  59. - Rich Miller - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 2:17 pm:

    ===If he told the rest to vote for a tax increase, they would.===

    Not quite.


  60. - W4G - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 2:54 pm:

    “But nobody has another plan”? I usually resist or don’t have time for the blogging wars here but come on, you know better than that. whitneyforgov.org is the website.

    – Rich Whitney


  61. - wordslinger - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 2:55 pm:

    The dreary whine of “it’s not my my fault” continues.

    The cool thing about budgets is, anyone can take projected revenues and apply them to proposed expenditures. Computers make it really easy and quick.

    Anyone can present an alternative. The GOP candidate for governor apparently has no opinion on the current budget. That might be good politics, but it’s not exactly “Profiles in Courage” stuff.

    No one, Dem or GOP, is offering solutions to the budget problem at this time. It’s another year of kicking the can down the road. Will it get squared after the election? We’ll see.

    But don’t confuse state fiscal problems with economic distress. State government means bupkis to the general economy. When the economy is bad, state government gets less revenue. The tail doesn’t wag the dog.


  62. - Linus - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 3:05 pm:

    = If legislators were to block the Senate plan, then what’s the game plan? =

    Reformer - The game plan is this: To get some honesty from Democrats (and more than a few Repubs) who privately acknowledge over and over there’s no way to truly solve our problems without the inclusion of a general tax increase - many of the same legislators who publicly rail against that very idea.

    If they’re open and honest about it, then the crummy budget that’s inching-forward right now can be blocked and rewritten. Would we be able to avoid all cuts? Hell, no. But we could mitigate the cuts, anyway.

    Yeah, yeah, I hear your chuckles.

    Recall, earlier, I did say the “game plan” resembled a Hail Mary pass. I ain’t so pollyanna as to expect these kinds of transformations come about magically and overnight. But our problems haven’t developed overnight, either.

    And this cynical game of private acknowledgement / public excoriation has been going on a long, long time.


  63. - lake county democrat - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 4:54 pm:

    Suggestion: Kick the budget to a bipartisan commission and promise in advance to vote for it unless it’s hideously unfair.


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