The audacity of broke

Illinois is broke — it’s that simple. Here is a great article by Austin Berg at the Illinois News Network:

It can be tough to comprehend Illinois’ dismal finances.

The state has the worst credit rating in the nation and has been bottom of the barrel on that measure for quite some time. Illinois’ pension mess is one of the nation’s worst. And the General Assembly hasn’t passed a truly balanced budget since 2001.

Why? The answer has a lot to do with government spending outpacing growth in the state’s economy. But recently, Illinoisans witnessed a particular and pernicious part of that problem: basic lack of humility.

Illinois is broke. But leaders don’t act like it.

On Jan. 17, State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith unveiled a proposal to spend an additional $7.2 billion on education in one year.

Some context: Illinois’ student population is shrinking. Illinois’ state budget is already out of balance by more than $1 billion, even after state lawmakers passed a $5 billion tax hike. As of 2015, Illinois spent at least 20 percent more on education per pupil than every neighboring state. And even when stripping out the richest school districts, Illinois spent more per student on average than every neighboring state.

Smith’s plan is absurd and irresponsible. But it elicited no real response from political leadership.

Now imagine if a state schools chief called for a freeze in education funding (which still would mean an increase in per-pupil spending, since the population is shrinking) and a reduction in Illinois school districts’ administrative costs, which are among the highest in the nation. One may disagree, but it’s a reasonable proposal given the dreadful state of Illinois finances.

Ears would be ringing from Chicago to Carbondale.

Another problem is that when politicians and observers do get up in arms about poor spending habits, they often miss the bigger picture.

Read more: Illinois News Network

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