Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Budget details, schmetails. Where’s our Christmas lights and lottery prizes?

We’re more than a third of the way through Illinois government’s fiscal year without a balanced budget in place, and our political people are still quibbling over details.

We get to keep holiday 'tree' after all. Image provided by Disarranging Mine
We have Gov. Bruce Rauner making several moves on Monday that he says show a willingness to compromise with Democratic leadership in the General Assembly. As in, now it’s their turn to make some moves toward a budget deal.

NOT THAT I expect many people to be swayed into believing that anything significant has happened in this partisan political spat! Most people probably think the 'big news' from Springfield on Monday was Donald Trump's anti-Starbucks rant!

We’re talking about details that give many people a massive headache. Just like the political hacks of old who devoted their attention to giving out free turkeys at Thanksgiving, rather than providing any real government services. The public saw a free turkey on their dinner plates and were easily appeased.

That may be the real problem we have with this political brawl – the public really doesn’t know what to demand. And for some people, the partisan gestures are what they really want; some are enjoying the political fight all too much.

Way too much attention has been paid to those Illinois lottery game winners whose prizes are delayed because the funds that would have gone to cover the winnings have not yet been authorized.

FORGET THOSE PEOPLE in need of services provided by state programs. It’s the lottery winners who are the “true” victims here.

Who's the real Grinch ...
To add to that, we now have the “Christmas tree lights” issue.

There’s no actual tree – it is a holiday tradition that has been in place for about a half-century in which colored lights are strung from the outside of the Illinois Capitol building.

The end result is a tree-shaped appearance for the Capitol during the month of December. I must confess that back when I lived in Springfield, I thought it was an interesting display.

IF ANYTHING, IT was more intriguing than the giant trees many municipalities feel compelled to erect for the Christmas holiday.

... for this holiday season?
Because of the lack of approval of budget funds, the secretary of state’s office (they’re in charge of maintaining the Capitol building) had said it didn’t have the money to be able to pay to erect the lights this year.

It’s only $7,300, but the idea is that there’s no authorization for any money to be spent – it’s not a matter of how much (or how little) the dollar amount is.

But we learned this week that we’re going to get our blessed tree-like lights on account of three labor union locals – they’re going to kick in the money so that people who have business in Springfield during December will still get their holiday treat.

IT’S BEING PRESENTED as a victory for organized labor over the opposition of Gov. Rauner – who has brought on this budgetary stalemate because of his demand that assorted restrictions on organized labor be a part of the budget negotiations.

I’m not willing to see it as some sort of labor union victory – even though I’ll be the first to admit to siding with the concerns of organized labor during this process.

It seems our holiday lights have become yet another petty issue elevated in significance by people whose eyes glaze over at real financial talk – but to whom the lack of a symbolic Christmas tree this year is something they can get all outraged over.

The sad part is that we’re likely to be well past the Christmas holiday by the time anybody is willing to talk seriously about the budget – and I still wonder if we’re likely to go the entire fiscal year without a spending plan. Would that make Rauner and the Legislature the collective “Grinch” who stole the state’s holiday season this year?


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