Friday, February 26, 2010

Political propaganda, or pure fact?

I’m not sure what to think of the fact that Illinois state government has gone so far as to create a special website for the expressed purpose of convincing people that their elected officials ought to support a significant tax hike to try to balance out the state’s anticipated budget shortfall.

Is this an attempt to put a “touchy-feely” cover over the fact that Illinoisans are going to have to kick in more tax dollars to maintain the services they have come to expect? Or is it the people who are adamantly opposed to any such hike who are the ones who need to get a grip on the reality of Illinois’ financial situation and do something about it?

ADMITTEDLY, HAVING DAVID Vaught of the Office of Management and Budget appear in a brief video on the website (at to talk about the state’s finances isn’t the most glamourous approach Gov. Pat Quinn could have used to address the issue.

But it is a serious issue. Girls in bikinis dancing about while begging for dollars would have provided the website with many “hits,” but would have been tacky, if not irrelevant.

This is an issue where anything that trivializes it is bad.

For Illinois’ financial situation is a mess because the amount of money being taken in has not kept up with the level of services that the state is offering for people – some of whom are absolutely dependant upon the state for their survival.

ILLINOIS’ MESS HAS become so prominent that even the Washington Post took note of Quinn’s talk this week ( that there will have to be an income tax hike of some sort – on top of a proposed $2.2 billion cut in state spending.

What the state does will have a serious impact on the rest of Illinois. I know of school districts across the state that already have their own financial problems that threaten to be exacerbated by the fact that the state is likely to be seriously late with its monthly aid payments.

I know of one school district this week that heard talk of the state’s deficit reaching $17 billion, although Quinn says if the General Assembly gives him everything he wants, the deficit will ONLY be $11.5 billion.

If I had to bet money, I’d say we’re more likely to wind up this crisis with a $17 billion deficit instead of $11.5 billion. That is because I understand the political reality of government officials of any kind not wanting a vote in favor of a tax increase being fresh in the minds of voters when they go to the polling place Nov. 2 to pick a new governor, other state officials and legislators.

THAT BASIC FACT is compounded by the reality that Republican legislators want to make this particular election cycle about the economy and have Quinn and Democrats take the blame for all the financial problems.

The last thing they’re going to do is support anything, no matter how sensible, that undermines all the campaign rhetoric that likely gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady will say about how he won’t raise taxes. GOP support for Quinn likely would kill off any chance Brady has of being extremely happy come the morning of Nov. 3.

I am convinced that our government has hit the point where there just isn’t “fat” to be cut from government budgets, even though I am aware there are people who are ideologically inclined to want to view “bone” as fatty tissue that can be disposed of.

So I am inclined to accept the fact that the time for an increase in the state income tax has arrived – no matter how much that thought gives me a nauseous feeling in my stomach. But that feeling is overcome by the near heart attack I would feel if cuts were made to some of these social service programs that ensure elderly people remain alive and public education programs that benefit our children.

THAT IS WHY I shudder at the thought of the Springfield-based newsletter publisher, Rich Miller, who on Thursday made mention on his website ( that Quinn should just propose a “very real, very stark” budget that cuts everything so drastically that it might just scare some sense into legislators.

If I thought that tactic would work and that political people would come to their senses, I’d back it. But I’m realistic enough to know these legislators will do nothing unless their leadership tells them to – and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, made it clear this week he’s not about to push the issue.

Ultimately, I realize that government is not a business where a particular product line that doesn’t pull in enough revenue to support it can be dropped. There are some services that must be offered regardless of circumstances.

Which means that the state ultimately has to find a way of paying for things. We have a situation that should have been addressed years ago when times were a little less tough economically and the need for tax increases would not have been as drastic toward the individual.

BECAUSE THE CURRENT situation where people who do business with state government often have to wait months at a time to get paid for their work is just unacceptable.

In fact, the only thing more unacceptable than that is the fact that some political people – either for electoral gain or out of cowardice – are more than willing to play partisan politics with the issue.


No comments: