In which I (justifiably) rant at the State of Illinois

It’s election time.  And that means that Illinois politicians — the legislators in the General Assembly and State Senate and Governor Rauner — are patting themselves on the back about their just-passed budget.

Here’s the Chicago Tribune, on Thursday:

llinois lawmakers approved a spending plan on Thursday, putting the state on track to have a full budget in place ahead of the new financial year for the first time since Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner took office in 2015.

The House agreed to the $38.5 billion proposal by a 97-18 vote, following a landslide 54-2 tally in the Senate on Wednesday night. Rauner said in a statement he plans to approve it.

The overwhelming vote margins illustrated a consensus that neither Democrats who control the General Assembly nor Republicans allied with the governor wanted to go into the election season under the cloud of a budget stalemate like the one that consumed state government for nearly two years until last July. . . .

And leaders were happy to pat themselves on the back:

“I can go back to my district and I can say that we have done our job for the first time in many years,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs said. “People in the state of Illinois continue to say, ‘Can you please just work it out, get together, figure it out and get the job done?’ And that’s what we’ve done today.”

Durkin said the budget was “not perfect,” but “our priorities, the Republicans’ and the Democrats’, have been met.”

“It’s not a bad thing for us to compromise,” Durkin said. “I want more of this.”

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, meanwhile, referenced his previous criticisms of Rauner’s priorities as “extreme,” saying that “while there is more work to be done, this compromise budget shows yet again that when extreme demands are not preconditions to negotiation, Democrats and Republicans in the legislature can work together to move Illinois forward.”

But this is not a “compromise” budget.  This is not a budget in which hard decisions were made about where to spend and where to cut.

Pardon me for just a minute.

*&^!  *&^!  *&^!  *&^!  *&^!  *&^! *&^! *&^!  *&^!

Those *&^!-ing *&^!-ers in the legislature and senate are leading us further down the path to *&^!-ing bankruptcy with more accounting tricks and gimmicks to get them re-elected again in the meantime, relying on Illinois’ gerrymandering and voters’ gullibility and fatalism, and the knowledge that the bill will come due enough years in the future that they can *&^!-ing high-tail it out, or at any rate, rely on their *&^!-ing political connections to insulate them from the ultimate impact of higher taxes and reduced services.

Sorry for the swearing, since it’s a family website.

The full details of what they’re up to aren’t known yet, since this was another one of those instances of a budget delivered at the last minute, without any public discussion before the vote.

Some of its failings are noted by the Trib:  the state added $8.8 billion in off-budget spending, funded by bonds, for capital projects, including pork projects that lawmakers can tout in their districts, plus a further $2.2 billion in infrastructure spending.  The budget also (per a further article today) fails to pay down the $6.6 billion in backlog of bills to providers of state services (that is, the people who provide services for the disabled, for example).  It counts on the sale of the Thompson Center, and it builds in a half-billion in pension savings that may not materialize.

Oh, and the budget includes $172 million in costs related to the Obama Museum, which we were always told was going to be funded by private donors, and the construction of which was as good as free money.

And money that was appropriated for Chicago Public Schools, with the lament that that state funding had been inadequate to meet their needs, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is now directing (feeling flush with cash and confident of his ability to win state appropriations) to a free preschool program.

The Illinois Policy Institute provides more infuriating details in their article, “Budget Gimmicks Explained:  Why the New Illinois Spending Plan Is Not Balanced.”  According to its analysis, the budget being touted as in-balance is potentially $1.5 billion out of balance due to these gimmicks.  In addition to the issues cited above, the IPI notes that state workers represented by the AFSCME union are slated to receive pay increases which the budget does not account for.  The sale of the Thompson Center has been counted as “revenue” for three years running, yet deferred maintenance means that, even if the sale finally occurs this year, the estimated price tag may not materialize.  They are also relying on “fund sweeps” for revenue, another gimmick to show a more in-balance budget, and (unlike any proper business accounting) uses cash-based budgeting.

Wirepoints, another group in Illinois working for fiscal responsibility, has this to say:

What really matters are the expenses the state accrues during the year, and those are set by the laws currently in place. What the legislature appropriates – the $38.5 billion number – is always much less than what they actually spend.

And separately, they provide a handy graphic emphasizing that Illinois has engaged in these sorts of gimmicks year after year after year.

So, again, I am royally ****ed off at these reports.

And, yes, again, we could move.  But like most people, we don’t want the disruption — to work, school for the kids, community relationships.  And we may indeed move when the kids finish school, but it’s still not fair for all the people who can’t move, and those who will bear the burdens — higher taxes, lower services — down the line, especially since the people most unable to move will be those who are most likely to suffer the consequences of reduced services and higher taxes, given that it’s a fantasy that compliant rich people will pay whatever’s demanded of them, and that the collective genius of our governments will lure job-creating companies here.

And — final gripe — it comes at an especially bad time, as I try to process the decision of my prior post and be confident, rather than mildly freaked out about it, to see what’s going on in my state.

 

Image: Illinois state capitol; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Illinoiscapitol2.jpg

 

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