Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Dan's on the Money

For several years now, Comptroller Dan Hynes has provided an accurate analysis of the state's budget situation. And I think that the latest story in the State Journal-Register continues this trend:
Significant problems are bubbling just below the surface of the state budget as officials delay paying billions of dollars owed to doctors, pharmacists and more, according to a recent analysis.

Despite Gov. Rod Blagojevich's claims that the state's financial problems have largely been solved, the budget deficit grew by $500 million in fiscal 2005, topping $3 billion, according to the state comptroller. (Emphasis added)

That's largely because the state simply didn't pay more than $2.9 billion in medical bills that year. In essence, those expenses were pushed off to future years so the 2005 budget could be declared balanced.

"It is a problem, and it is growing," Comptroller Daniel Hynes said. "It's not harmless. Medicaid providers are the ones who suffer when we do this."

What I find more interesting though is a quote at the end of the article from John Filan, the Governor's Budget Director:

"I think year-to-year we're doing a better and better job, but we have to still correct the long-term structural deficit that's been here for more than 20 years," Filan said. (Emphasis added)
If your own budget director is publicly acknowledging what others have said for years, namely that there is a structural decifit in our state, one would think that this would be a major priority.

It is difficult to understand why so many people continue to put their heads in the sand on this issue. If people didn't like House Bill 750 (the tax swap bill proposed by Sen. Meeks), which among other things, addressed the structural deficit, fine. But then put another idea on the table for debate.

I had always maintained that I was open to other ideas of tackling these issues and envisioned HB750 being, at a minimum, a good device by which to foster debate and ideally a solution to a number of our critical issues. But instead, there were a whole lot of criticisms of the plan...and not much else. If there was another bill filed to directly deal with the structural deficit, I must have missed it. I don't think that I did.

If the energy that has been expended dealing with all of the nonsense that has been going on in this state for the last several years had been put toward fixing some of these very real problems, we would all be much better off for it.

I think the right transitional slogan would be to go from Illinois First to Illinoisans First.

9 Comments:

At July 11, 2006 at 10:52 PM, Anonymous Mightier than the sword said...

A couple of observations: Dan Hynes has done a solid job as Comptroller. While he may have higher ambitions and even be qualified for higher office. His skills and personality seem to best fit the one where he is now.

Regarding budget games, there is little question that the Republicans did it as well, but it is the brazen arrogance and denial that the current administration does it with that makes it so egregrious.

I'm sad to say it, but the Governor is actually one of those people that the public will get a sense of satisfaction about if he gets indicted/convicted. He is cocky, not bright, and one of the most superficial and arrogant elected officials I've seen. And I've been around Illinois politics a long time.

 
At July 11, 2006 at 10:54 PM, Anonymous mightier than the sword said...

Excuse the typos and poor grammar in my last post, I have had a long week (already)

 
At July 12, 2006 at 1:14 AM, Anonymous Disillusioned Dem said...

John,

You are right, but a lonely voice in your party. Which is why you would do well if you (hopefully) run for higher office. You know we're down here to help.

 
At July 12, 2006 at 4:09 AM, Blogger Jeff Trigg said...

Sounds like it's PAST time to cap pension awards, totally reform government retirement plans to be more like most lucky individual's private 401Ks, or just raise the income tax to 15% which is what it will take for our future generations to pay for the current millionaire state government pensions.

But that would mean proving to the government unions that they have some of the best pension beneifts in the world. It takes REAL leadership to do that on behalf of all the HARD working residents of Illinois that can no longer afford to make millionaires out of government employees. Half of the Peoria County property tax bill goes to pay for pensions dictated by state government (instead of education), and many counties are in the same ballpark.

Can we really afford to pay for 85% of the best 3 years wages to start a pension with COLAs every year? Absolutely NOT, as Democrat Comptroller Dan Hynes just showed us. Reign in millionaire lucrative pensions before our children suffer any more than they have to. Just a suggestion.

 
At July 12, 2006 at 9:13 AM, Blogger Extreme Wisdom said...

Jeff,

You are only "offering critiques" and not alternatives. Why?

Because spending cuts are OFF THE TABLE.

John,

The answer is simple. Public Education Administrative Bloat, insane class size reductions, and numerous other cost drivers have bankrupted the state.

I'll help campaign for HB750 when you campaign for zeroing out the Property tax for education (it creates education apartheid) and start funding children instead of corrupt bureaucracies.

As an intelligent person, you simply have to know that the fake tax swap of the current HB750 will create a backlash of tremendous proportions.

Winning HB750 with out dramatic and permanent reductions in property taxes will be a hollow victory for the rapacious "Education Industry."

Everyone who can, will simply leave the state.

Fund Children, not Bureaucracies. It really is that simple.

 
At July 12, 2006 at 9:22 AM, Anonymous NW burbs said...

At first I thought the "Debt is being accumulated without your approval..." icon was referring to the conservatives who control Washington's bacon.

But alas, apparently even pork is ok if you're a Republican.

 
At July 14, 2006 at 9:47 PM, Blogger WurfWhile.com said...

John, forgive me if I'm being overly simplistic in asking this - but in the realm of the politically possible, what do you think we can do to restructure the budget and reduce debt? If not a complete plan - what types of things might help?

I have some of my own ideas in my neck of the woods (DuPage) of what would work. One major one is investing in much better mass transit and trying to minimize road construction. Reducing traffic congestion through mass transit has the benefits of better quality of life (less time in traffic and reduced commute times), saving money on transportation costs for business, reduced pollution and ultimately a competitive advantage for the state over other states.

What's your take?

 
At July 15, 2006 at 7:33 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Jeff,Bruno, Please!!!!
Try to be honest. I know it is hard for you guys.
State pension benefits in Illinois are in the middle of the pack nationally and are certainly not extroardinarily generous by any FAIR analysis. State employees dedicate themselves to public service and work for decades at wages considerably less than most would earn in the private sector. In return the state has promised them an adequate pension in retirement.
In fact, should state pensions end tomorrow the state would incur greater costs because their employees would then be covered by social security and Illinois would be responsible for paying the employee portion. Also, the Fed would not allow the state to skip payment on their obligation regularly to balance their budget.
The problem with the state pension plans is a revenue problem not a spending problem. Had the state funded the plans adequately over the last several decades ( the employees have never skipped a payment)the plans would be mostly self sufficient.
To solve the structural deficit, revenue must be enhanced. While I do not object to the swap proposal, a more honest solution would be to increase the income tax by 1%, impose sales tax on services and internet sales, and let the local voters decide whether their local units of gov't are operating as efficiently as possible when it comes to the property tax.
Passage of the 7% cap in the fall session would alleviate some of the pain in some townships undergoing gentrification and reassesment this cycle.
The employees of our state didn't cause this problem and should not be expected to carry the burden of its solution.

 
At July 16, 2006 at 8:19 AM, Anonymous Education Advocate said...

Ohmigosh, how did this break down to blaming others. John's discussing Dan Hynes and his ability to call it like it is. I have absolute worries over All Kids and doctors that live in my neighborhood who can't keep their staffs because of non payment. If we are headed to socialization of medicine in Illinonis then pay for it OR WE ALL LOSE WHEN DOCTORS LEAVE THE STATE. Our doctor neighbors are considering moving to Wisconsin. What's being done here is criminal and wrong and a bevvy of Illinoisians are allowing this to continue AND DAN HYNES IS POINTING THAT OUT!

To get to John's point - The question you have to ask yourself about 750 is what will make it salable to the Republicans? The property taxation piece and returning more dollars that were sent to Springfield back to the folks that put it there. Fix those two things and you have a bill that people will wrap their arms around.

Truth be told Rep, after watching the sale of both of the last two budgets it makes a person ill. I live in large growth school distric and the bill passed two years ago to alot dollars to high growth districts is moot because all the pet projects of the "letters of agreement" have been used to take dollars away from youngsters who need it.

 

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