The 2015 Illinois budget absurdity and hypocrisy knows few bounds.
Yes, there was no vote to raise taxes, making the 5 percent rate permanent. That will make for easier re-election campaigns for supermajority Democrats. Yes, the $100 million in taxpayer funds House Speaker Michael Madigan had proposed to sweeten the bid for an Obama Presidential Library never was approved.
But, back to absurdity and hypocrisy. Here are the facts to remember:
- The state is more than $5 billion behind in paying its bills.
- It has the worst credit rating of any state.
- It has the worst unfunded pension liability of any state.
- There was not enough support for raising taxes, nor was their enough support for a doomsday budget. Still, lawmakers approved a $35.7 billion budget.
- Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton acknowledge that this budget borrows $650 million from special funds that will drive up the bills taxpayers ultimately must fund.
- This budget postpones paying $380 million state worker health insurance bills that taxpayers ultimately must fund.
- This budget diverts $650 million in funds that had been going to pay down unpaid bills that taxpayers ultimately must fund.
- Yet, lawmakers voted to start paying themselves again for 12 furlough days they had been taking. In other words, they boosted their own pay by $3,100 to $67,836 per lawmaker. Most actually are paid closer to $78,000 for their part-time jobs because most of them get another $10,000 for committee chairmanships.
- In the spending plans approved before politicians adjourned was $10 million to renovate the Uptown Theatre in Chicago.
- There was $35 million to build a grade school in Madigan’s district.
- There was $500,000 for a car racetrack near St. Louis.
- There is a bill that could allow Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to raise cell phone taxes by $1.40 per month.
- The budget includes $50 million in funds for Chicago Public Schools pensions and another $50 million in back pay owed state workers.
- There’s money authorized, according to the Chicago Tribune, for more Capitol renovations*, for the Glen Ellyn Park District, a Puerto Rican Cultural Center, a Little League in Blue Island, windows for a Chicago church and more.
- Both Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican nominee Bruce Rauner already are using the budget crisis to try to raise campaign funds and support. Quinn wanted a permanent tax increase. Rauner has refused to provide details for how he would solve the crisis.
And how are we, the taxpayers, going to pay for all of this spending and borrowing and postponing of bill paying? “While a vote on our tax rates has been deferred, rising costs and pressures will force the issue at a later date,” Cullerton said.
Yes, absurdity and hypocrisy in the 2015 Illinois budget knows few bounds. And we, the taxpayers, will get the bills.
*Update: On June 30, Governor Quinn used his amendatory veto power to remove $250 million in funding for renovations to the Capitol.
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