Monday, June 2, 2014

Legislature’s actions of past week give us 5 months of cam-pains to address

We have been hearing a lot of rhetoric that will continue for the next five months – the Nov. 4 elections for Illinois governor will be a referendum, of sorts, on what people think about taxes.
QUINN: Is he still mighty?
To listen to the conservative ideologues, a vote for Gov. Pat Quinn is a vote for higher taxes, while a ballot cast for Republican nominee Bruce Rauner is one for lower taxes.

WHICH IS ABOUT as overly-simplistic and inaccurate a way to view the matters confronting Illinois government these days. Which is also why Rauner himself is likely to use that rhetoric over and over, while using all that personal wealth to buy broadcast airtime to try to ensure that it gets pounded into our brains by Nov. 4.

What I’m really getting at is that reality is much more complex than the campaign rhetoric we’re going to hear from Rauner, and Quinn for that matter. This is likely to be the first of several commentaries I will write in coming months to try to help people realize the complexity of the state’s situation.

Then again, there will be some voters who will desperately look for the simplest possible explanation – and way of thinking – they can come up with.

Whether they will turn out to be a majority is something I can’t even guess at. We’ll find out the morning of Nov. 5, and in the days thereafter.

THE RHETORIC WILL focus around the $35.7 billion budget for state government’s fiscal year beginning July 1.

There are attempts at saving money through various fiscal gimmicks such as delaying payment of certain bills and maintaining certain expenses at current levels – even though state officials realize more money is needed.

But state officials admit that what will happen is there won’t be enough money to cover all the expenses for state government running through June 30, 2015. Next spring, when the General Assembly tries to put together a budget for 2015-16, the shortfall will be worse.
RAUNER: Will enough voters buy rhetoric?
All because the ideologically-motivated did not want to extend the income tax increase that was approved a few years ago, and has a Dec. 30 expiration date.

GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WILL go into this campaign cycle saying they did nothing that would result in the higher income tax rate remaining in place next year. Of course, they also did nothing to balance out a state budget for the year.

What is likely to happen is that when the General Assembly returns to Springfield for its fall session in November (in the weeks following the general election) is that legislators will have to consider the issue all over again.

They could make the kinds of cuts that would devastate public education and social service programs. Or they could wind up passing some sort of increase extension for the income tax.

It would have been more honest if they would have just “bitten the bullet,” so to speak, now instead of later.

THERE IS A third option, which is always possible if Rauner actually succeeds in winning (he’s building up a lot of organized labor and public education interests who view that option as evil incarnate for Illiinois). The Legislature could do nothing come November.

But then that would be dumping the whole mess into Rauner’s lap. Considering this is the candidate who absolutely refuses to tell us anything specific about how this financial mess can be resolved (preferring to symbolically repeat over and over “Pat Quinn is a Bad Man!!!”), it would serve him right to have to address such a problem on Day One.

But it would also be bad for Illinois as a whole.
MADIGAN: Part of problem, or solution?
Regardless of where one stands ideologically, I have to say I find Quinn’s talk throughout this whole issue to be much more honest than the campaign crud we’re getting from Rauner.

QUINN HAS BECOME the stuffy ol’ doctor trying to force-feed us that bitter, nasty-tasting medical concoction that really will make us feel better and be better off in the long-run.

So what will happen come Nov. 4? Will patient Illinois spit the vile mess in the doctor’s face, then try to pat ourselves on the back because the “medicine,” like the lack of an income tax reduction, was yucky?

Or will we swallow, and start the healing process that could result in our state’s fiscal health actually being restored someday?


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