A tale of two states: stories Illinois Republican legislators should read


“State holds line on spending, revenues soar.”“Tax dollars spent on embryonic stem cell research produces a study in corruption.”


Those weren’t the actual headlines, but they could’ve been. Texas legislators proved again that the best way to see tax revenues rise is to limit spending – and thus limit tax rates. And California legislators are spending billions on stem cell research – and instead of finding cures they’ve found typical public sector sickness.


The Texas story sounds very foreign to those of us in Illinois. The California story, on the other hand, reminds us that we’re not alone.

Budget & Tax News’  Byron Schlomach tells the Texas tale: just four years ago the Texas legislature “faced a historic $10 billion shortfall.” Today they face “a truly historic surplus situation. Estimates of the size of the surplus have ranged from $8 billion to a jaw-dropping $15 billion.”

How did it happen? Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst (R) answers the question:

“The great news here in Texas is that conservative budgeting and not raising taxes the past two legislative sessions have turned a $10 billion shortfall into a surplus. By being disciplined and having a conservative team of leaders who hold the line on unnecessary spending, we will continue our current trend, which has seen state general revenue spending grow less than 2.5 percent per year since 2002 and continue to strengthen Texas’ fiscal condition.”
What a difference real Republican political leadership makes. Here in Illinois we hear a lot of complaining from Republicans about the governor but if there’s been a coherent and comprehensive fiscal plan presented by Republican legislators we haven’t seen it. That’s the opposite of leadership.

Being in the minority isn’t an excuse. Dare we point out the ABCs of party politics once again? Without an alternative vision presented, voters will never learn that there is actually supposed to be a difference between the Rs and the Ds.


One Republican Texas legislator said: “The legislature is in as good a financial shape as it’s been since I’ve been elected.” The exact opposite is the case here in Illinois. What’s worse – voters have no reason to believe things would be different if the Republicans were in charge since not that long ago they were – and things were a mess then, too.

Now the debate in Texas turns to what to do with the tax revenue surplus that’s resulting from the booming Texas economy. There’s actually some talk about returning funds to taxpayers or cutting taxes. Can you imagine that happening in Illinois? Here again, it’s the exact opposite.The California tale is told by the Orange County Register:

“The agency set up to spend bond money on stem-cell science has proved its critics correct. Before Californians voted in 2004 for Proposition 71 to float $3 billion in state bonds to fund stem-cell research, the Register’s editorial page warned that government-funded research would politicize the process and create wasteful and inefficient use of tax dollars.”
Now, while “Oodles of tax dollars have been spent with no serious accountability,” the California state auditor says there are serious problems:
“The most serious problem relates to how the agency divvies up taxpayers’ dollars. ‘[I]ts conflict-of-interest policy for the working group that evaluates applications for program grants does not include experts, known as specialists, who are invited to assist the working group,’ according to the audit. The institute claims that these reviewers need not follow conflict-of-interest rules that government officials must follow because they are only advisers.”
Dollars get diverted to organizations in which grant reviewers have a financial interest. Now that sounds more like Illinois! Even better, it’s not against the law. So Illinoisans depressed after reading about clear-thinking Texas can recover a bit reading about California corruption.
The audit found that multiple contracts were awarded –

“without a competitive-bidding process and did not maintain documents that demonstrated it received reasonable prices on the goods and services it purchased. And in the process officials at the institute lived quite well at taxpayers’ expense. They paid themselves high salaries and had lax rules for travel, entertainment and other expenses.”

Sounds like the Illinois public school system.
To read the Texas tale, click here: Texas Budget a Rags to Riches Story.
To read the California tale, click here: No research needed.