Saturday, May 24, 2014

Statehouse resembles Fantasyland; legislators need to make up minds

There are times I seriously wonder just what world do the members of the Illinois General Assembly live in?

Because it certainly isn’t the one in which you and I are forced to exist in – one in which the problems of real life need to be confronted, or else risk serious consequences for trying to ignore them.

OUR STATE’S LEGISLATURE seems to think that if they close their eyes tightly enough, the financial problems confronting the state will just go away.

Or maybe they view it the same way they view gambling expansion, new airports or many other issues that linger for years (if not decades) on end because legislators just don’t think the time is right to finally address them. They don’t want to be bothered!

What has me worked up are the votes taken this week, particularly on Friday, with regards to the state’s budget.

Based off assorted news reports, it seems that only 34 Illinois House members (all Democrats) are willing to support the desire of Gov. Pat Quinn to make permanent the increase in the income tax approved a few years ago.

THE ONE THAT was crafted in a way that it lapses after year’s end, and we’d go back to the old state income tax rate.

Which means a significant drop in the amount of money available to state government for its operating expenses this year. And it’s not just state government itself.

Let’s not forget that many public service entities rely heavily on state government grants and other funds for a significant share of their own operating budgets. That includes public education, which would take a significant hit beyond the ones they have taken in recent years in terms of the amount of money they would have to operate schools.

Yet what is annoying is the vote that came Friday – one on a budget proposal that assumes the income tax boost will not remain in place, and that there will be major cuts required in state government operations.

THAT IS THE bill that received a 5-107 vote. As in only five legislators – House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and four other Democrats – being willing to support it.

We'll all be in the gloom 'n' doom of the Statehouse if legislators can't make up their minds by month's end
Now I’m sure the masses of those 107 voting against are going to claim they’re being responsible. They’re looking out for the schools. They’re protecting other public service programs and agencies that would be devastated if they took a major cut in funding.

But that’s nonsense.

Because like I pointed out before, there are only 34 (out of 118 Illinois House members) who are willing to support the cuts.

WHAT WE HAVE are legislators who don’t want anything cut, but don’t want to do anything to come up with the money required to avoid serious cuts.

Actually, what I suspect is that most of those legislators don’t want anything cut that impacts their legislative districts. They want the cuts to be made in programs affecting everybody else’s district.

A greedy little sentiment, which is in total character with the mentality of the typical General Assembly member.

Like I have written before, I don’t like the idea of the income tax remaining at a higher rate. Nobody does. Although I suspected back when it was temporarily increased that it would become permanent out of necessity.

SO EXCUSE ME for accepting reality, and the need to use the schools in particular to try to score some cheap political points meant to appease the anti-tax crowd – the ones who believe they have no obligation to support their government in any way.

Although maybe their problem is they don’t like the way it supports certain people whom they’d prefer to ignore.

So what’s going to happen between now and next Saturday, which is when the General Assembly is supposed to complete its business for the spring session and go home until November?

MADIGAN: How hard can he hit?
I don’t have a clue! Several somebodies in the General Assembly are going to have to undergo serious changes of heart in their feelings. They’re going to have to pick a side – more money, or more cuts.

WE MAY WIND up seeing some classic use of power by Madigan to make people wind up doing the right thing. We could learn just how hard the “Velvet Hammer” of old still hits.

Trying to play both sides and avoid offending anybody is what is going to cause serious financial problems to develop and linger on long after this spring session is nothing but a distant nightmare.


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