Thursday, April 8, 2010

How long can Illinois spread around its financial hurt to Indiana and other states?

It is no secret that Illinois government’s financial problems have become so severe that companies doing business with the state often go for months at a time before they actually get paid for their services or products.

But are we now starting to put a financial headlock on surrounding states?

THAT WAS THE initial reaction I had when I learned of the Illinois Department of Corrections having problems purchasing ammunition for use by their guards. More specifically, by the guards-in-training when they go through the exercises that ensure they know how to use the firearms they have been issued for their jobs.

If a cadet is at all competent, he winds up using 600 bullets to complete his training.

Shore Galleries Inc. of suburban Lincolnwood is the company the state has been buying ammunition from. But the state owes Shore some $6,000, cauising the company to say it would not provide any more of its product to the state unless the state paid in advance.

News reports indicate that the state ultimately got the ammunition it needs. But not by paying up what it owed to Shore, or by working out a deal that allows the state to continue to have a line of credit for Shore.

INSTEAD, ILLINOIS MANAGED to find a company in Indiana, which provided some 761,000 rounds of ammunition at a cost of $200,000.

Which means we’re now in debt to an Indiana company.

A part of me would like to think that this is a case of some Hoosiers being suckered. Which it is on a certain level, since I would doubt they got any of the money up front. If the state could afford to pay up front, it would have been kept in Illinois.

But that also makes Illinois the equivalent of a con-artist, pulling off a scam against our “country bumpkin” neighbors. I wish we could have a better image than that.

AT A TIME when Illinois’ national image focuses largely around Rod Blagojevich and half-wit websites run headlines such as “Mob banker endorsed by Obama losing Illinois Senate race,” the last thing I really want to see emanating from the Statehouse Scene is constant reminders of how much of a deadbeat the state has become financially.

Are we eventually going to turn off Indiana companies, so we’re going to have to go two states over to Ohio (or Kansas) to do business with? If we ever get to Idaho, that is when (in my mindset) Illinois will have bottomed out.

The reason Illinois has sunk to such desperate financial straits is that government expenses went up in recent years at the same time that the national economy has taken a hit on income. We’re spending more while taking in less.

Put that way, it seems like such a problem with an elementary solution.

BUT THE SAME kind of partisan politics that want to lambast Giannoulias as a “mob banker” also are preventing political people from seriously addressing the issue.

There are those who figure we need to come up with more money to cover the essential expenses, while others are determined to whittle the state’s financial skeleton down beyond the bone to mere slivers because they’d rather appease the anti-tax types who usually oppose programs that benefit people unlike themselves.

The reality is that while there are some cuts that can be made, there also is going to have to be some sort of tax hike such as what Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed. But then again, there are the people who point out incidents such as Quinn’s meeting with Mayor Richard Daley.

One day after Daley saw an Opening Day White Sox victory with his grandson in tow, Daley got another victory by getting Quinn to back away from suggestions that the state could save money by having the Chicago Police take over patrols of the Interstate highways that cut through the city.

THE PERCEPTION THAT Quinn will back down if pressured is what enables legislators to seriously think they can get away with passing six-month budgets, then return to Springfield in the weeks after Election Day to try to impose another quick-fix to the financial mess.

It is this insistence on quick fixes, rather than seriously addressing the problem, that is going to create more and more situations where we have to find surrounding state suckers who are willing to accept our promise of, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

Wonderful. We have become the political equivalent of Wimpy, the Popeye cartoon character.


EDITOR’S NOTES: Illinois is so far in debt that it had to endure a struggle last month to come up with ( sufficient ammunition for its prison guards. For what it’s worth, Department of Corrections officials felt compelled to issuea statement to reporter-types that guards in the prisons themselves were never in danger.

Alexi Giannoulias may have his problems, but the spin on this story goes so far over the top that it makes ( their “facts” seem cheap. Meanwhile, Pat Quinn having a better relationship with Rich Daley than Jim Edgar did (,CST-NWS-quinn07web.article) really does not say much for him.

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