Illinois Governor Pat Quinn on Wednesday presented his proposed budget for the next fiscal year and pronounced it “the most difficult budget Illinois has ever faced.” He added, “There are significant reductions in this budget that I do not want to make, and that none of you will want to make, either.”
Everything should be this difficult.
From the numbers I’m looking at, Gov. Quinn is proposing a budget that totals $1.9 billion more spending than the budget he signed last June. Bloomberg News reports spending would rise 5.6 percent. Inflation over the last 10 years has never come close to 5.6 percent. It’s currently 1.6 percent and averaged 1.7 percent in 2012, 3.0 percent in 2011, 1.5 percent in 2010, 2.7 percent in 2009 . . . well, you get the picture.
This in a state with the nation’s worst credit rating, worst pension shortfall, and worst backlog of unpaid bills.
Real personal incomes have declined, Illinois cannot pay its routine bills on time, yet Illinois’ governor finds a way to try to raise spending at a clip more than three times faster than the government’s official inflation estimates the past two years. And he speaks of spending cuts and “the most difficult budget Illinois has ever faced.”
Meanwhile, the state’s teachers union is blasting the budget proposal and complaining about the many years the state has skipped payments into their pension system to spend that money on other things. Well, their pensions are swallowing almost all the additional revenue the state takes in.
And this same union slavishly backs Michael Madigan, who entered the legislature while in his 20s and is now in his 70s, and who has been House Speaker 30 years. No one is more directly responsible for the pension disaster and fiscal crisis the teachers decry than Madigan, yet he is politically untouchable, largely because of the support of teachers and other government-dependent groups. If teachers and others want things to change in Illinois state government, they have to stop sending their money and political support to Madigan and the political puppets who dance every time he pulls their strings. I won’t hold my breath.
Quinn’s total budget is about $62.4 billion. His general budget is $35.6 billion. The difference is federal money for various programs. So $26.8 billion of the spending by Illinois state government would be paid for by people around the country.
The Illinois Policy Institute last year reported, from 2000 to 2010, state per-capita spending grew 71 percent, more than twice Illinois’ growth in economic output. Since 1990, state spending per person has grown nearly three times faster than it would have if spending had been held to inflation plus population growth.
And Illinois’ governor proposes another 5.6 percent increase in total spending, with much of it paid for by people in other states.
This cannot continue. I wonder if Illinois’ governor, lawmakers, teachers and others who back ever-greater spending will ever acknowledge this.