Thursday, March 11, 2010

Legislators face a tough decision

Our political people in Springfield are going out of their way to avoid voting on anything that could be perceived as a tax increase. They don’t want to tick off voters come the Nov. 2 elections.

Yet I’m starting to wonder at what point will their refusal to do something about the serious financial problems this state confronts will come back to bite them in the tushy. For the fact is that the state’s shortfalls are causing struggles for many entities that rely on state funding to survive.

THUS FAR, STATE officials have lucked out.

Because many people are seeing cuts in programs they rely on, or are hearing their local school districts talk about making serious cuts in education, in order to balance their budgets with the lesser amounts of money the state is likely to give them during the upcoming school year.

I say state officials are lucky because the people see these cuts and seem to be blaming the local folks.

They’re assuming it is financial incompetence on the part of the local program officials, or school board officials who don’t have a clue what they are doing, that are causing these cuts to be made.

I HAVE LOST count of the number of times I have heard school superintendents make pleas to their local residents to call up their state legislator and complain about the activity in Springfield. All I know is that if that message ever does resonate with the public, there are going to be a whole lot of angry people marching on the Statehouse to complain.

That is a thought our Legislature ought to have kept in mind on Wednesday when Gov. Pat Quinn made (finally!) his budget address for the state fiscal year beginning July 1.

His past attempts to get the Legislature to approve something in the way of a tax hike to raise enough revenue to maintain government services (some of which people depend upon to survive) at adequate levels have failed.

So this year, he’s talking about the massive cuts to programs, which I wonder is just a scare tactic to get people to consider some alternative? I note that legislative officials already are saying Quinn’s budget proposal (which calls for $2.2 billion in spending cuts, mostly to education; taking out $5 billion in loans; and extending by an even more ridiculous time period the schedule by which government pays its bills) is dead.

YET I HAVE not heard of anyone offering a serious alternative – except for some talk of passing six-month budgets that would allow for any potentially negative vote to be taken in the weeks AFTER this year’s general election.

That’s just running away from the problem.

Yet so far, the legislators have been able to take cover in the fact that Illinois residents are quick to blame their local officials for the problems that are being imposed upon them by the state.

I do understand that the economic conditions causing these problems are unlike anything I have seen in recent decades. This is a unique situation – one that is going to require a unique solution if Illinois government is ever to become a worthy entity capable of providing for the many who rely upon it for various services.

I ALSO REALIZE that when I hear parents complain that their local school district is going to decimate itself by making severe cuts in the number of teachers, educational or extra-curricular activities or supplies, I do believe that no self-respecting school official would even consider making these cuts if they could avoid it.

So I do believe that some of the local hostility is irrational. These are conditions that are going to be dumped upon us, and there are going to be some people who will suffer as a result.

So I don’t blame local officials, or even Illinois legislators, for causing the situation, as much as I wonder why they’re so reluctant to take on the hard-nosed actions that will be required to resolve the problems.

I believe that part of the duty of an elected official is to make the tough decisions that aren’t always popular, but are necessary for our government to survive as a worthwhile entity. Because if it can’t provide, then we have to take the Libertarian sentiment into account and question why we even have it?

ONE OTHER POINT that I noticed recently. State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, also the Republican nominee for governor, plans to campaign by claiming Quinn has mis-managed the whole situation and is wrong for thinking that additional revenue is a solution.

Yet Brady doesn’t seem to have the support of one-time Gov. Jim Edgar, who recently told WBEZ-FM that Brady’s proposed solutions were “naïve” and that he’s not campaigning for anybody come November.

Edgar is far from a radical and I recall his use of the no-tax hikes rhetoric during his two terms as governor. But if even he’s seeing that our political people are going to have to swallow some of the vile-tasting medicine being offered by Quinn to resolve this situation, we might have to take into account that it will have to happen.

Or else legislators will have to hope that Illinoisans don’t ever some to their senses and turn their disgust on the Statehousse for their inaction.


EDITOR’S NOTES: Pat Quinn is spewing a lot of “crazy talk,” as far as his government colleagues in the (,CST-NWS-quinn10web.article) Legislature are concerned. Could it be that talk includes a little bit of truth?

Jim Edgar is going to maintain ( his silence this election cycle.

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