Letter: Illinois fiscal anarchy

By on March 11, 2010

If constituents whom I serve fail to make their mortgage payments, the bank forecloses. If we don’t make our car payment, the car is repossessed.

What happens to a state like Illinois when it doesn’t pay its bills for over six months to school districts and social service agencies?

Answer: We the People fire the decision-makers.

The state budget was in emergency condition four years ago. It was in crisis three years ago. Chaos two years ago. Now, it’s beyond meltdown—it’s fiscal anarchy.

Anarchy is “the state of lawlessness or political disorder—the denial of any authority, rule of law, and absence of established order.”

The legislature passes appropriations laws to authorize the governor’s spending. He agrees by signing the appropriations plan into law. Millions of people trust and depend upon his proper execution of that spending plan. Yet, in Illinois today, the bills don’t get paid.

In May 2009, I speculated in writing that the governor was holding social service agencies hostage by cutting their appropriations in half to put pressure on the legislature to pass his income tax increase. Now, he seems to be doubling-down on that strategy by refusing to do what’s necessary to now pay school districts and universities, too.

When practical legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, recognize the further financial strain that a major tax increase on work and savings will have on already-struggling Illinois families and vote “No,” the governor refuses to significantly cut spending in a bloated government. When the deficit climbs to 24 percent of general revenue, a 1 percent year-over-year spending cut doesn’t count for enough.

Besides getting Illinois back to work, my highest priority this spring will be to propose solutions to the governor and the ruling majority of Chicago Democrats who have had total control of Illinois state government for eight years that will allow us to live within our means without a tax increase. We have billions of your dollars that need to be prioritized so that we don’t bail out government at taxpayers’ expense, especially during this serious economic downturn.

Massive billion-dollar savings to restore balance will result if we:
• Rein in Medicaid eligibility: the deliveries of one out of every two babies born in Illinois are now paid by taxpayers, and we still have no citizenship requirement for routine healthcare for illegal immigrants, often provided in the most expensive emergency rooms.
• Implement cost-saving “managed-care” to improve quality and reduce cost of Medicaid.
• Obtain spending flexibility for the huge $9.4 billion of federal so-called stimulus funding coming to Illinois from Washington over the 20 months starting February of 2009, rather than its current requirement of freezing status quo structural overspending, which they refer to as “maintenance of effort.”
• Reform the bankrupt state pension systems to protect taxpayers and rank-and-file beneficiaries by declaring the actuarial emergency that currently exists, cap outrageous high-compensation benefits at even 400 percent current maximum social security levels, reconstruct the pension architecture for future participants to be a hybrid of Social Security defined benefit and defined contribution 401(k) saving structures, and eliminate pensions for members of the General Assembly who should serve out of sense of duty rather than lucrative career politics. Huge actuarial savings will be achieved if we merely require that even existing levels of pension benefits cannot be collected until the public employee reaches 62, like the rest of us under “early-retirement” Social Security, instead of the current shockingly young age of 50 or 55 years old.

I am simply amazed by the atmosphere in Springfield in recent weeks. Smart people, who should know better, are walking around like things are normal, while schools and social service agencies back home are having panic spread because payrolls won’t be met.

In a future article, I will list my other legislative initiatives on your behalf, including term limits, stopping political robocalls, and a new Constitutional requirement that laws passed by politicians must apply to them, too.

Chris Lauzen
State Senator, 25th District