Illinois’ State Debt Problem

Reboot Our Finances – Year upon year, deal-cutters in the General Assembly collect fat donations from gambling interests and dutifully write legislation to massively expand the industry’s reach in Illinois communities.

The sponsors promise that massive expansion will bring vast new revenue to Springfield. They don’t boast, though, about how they buy the votes for passage by earmarking a huge share of that revenue for their fellow legislators’ pet causes and projects. Most dangerously, the sponsors punctuate thick expansion bills with sneaky ethical loopholes.

Gov. Quinn told the deal-cutters — once more — that he will not let them sell out the integrity of the state. His bottom line: “My two predecessors, who are in jail, did not focus on ethics.”

Illinois today is right where it ought to be: A bad bill wears a veto stamp. And, to borrow a phrase, smarter minds now are free to “start over!”

Quote of the Day – “We’re not going to have loopholes for mobsters in Illinois.” – Gov. Pat Quinn (D-Illinois) on his veto of the gambling expansion bill.

Reboot Our Schools – The Chicago Teachers Union plans to file a 10-day strike notice later today, meaning a teacher walkout could begin after the majority of the city’s students finish their first week of school, sources said.

The union and CPS have been in talks for months but have failed to reach agreement on a number of matters, among them salary, pay hikes based on experience, a re-hiring policy for teachers who’ve been laid off and job evaluations.

Our children belong in the classroom, not the streets. We extended the school day so that ours is not the shortest day in the country anymore. The CPS raised property taxes, cut costs and drained all its cash reserves just to make ends meet this year. The money they had set aside for salary raises was used to hire 477 additional teachers to fill the longer school day instead.

Stat of the Day – Illinois has the 5th highest debt in the nation, according to State Budget Solutions’ State Debt Report 2012. Our total outstanding debt is now $271 billion, or $21,000 per Illinois resident – over 70% of which comes from Illinois’ unfunded pension liability.

 

Reboot Our Transparency – Two boards appointed by Mayor Emanuel took steps to tighten city ethics rules and enforcement. An ethics reform task force appointed by Emanuel released its second report, making 21 new recommendations designed to ensure greater compliance with city ethics and campaign finance rules. Meanwhile, a controversial board set up to lure private investment for public works agreed to fall under the jurisdiction of the city inspector general.

Among the ethics reform task force recommendations were proposals to broaden the definition of lobbyist to include agents for nonprofit organizations and allow anonymous complaints to be filed against aldermen and their staffs.  It also recommended making the city Law Department the prosecutor of alleged ethics rules violations and campaign finance infractions. And it suggested that the Board of Ethics determine if violations have occurred and mete out sanctions.

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