For many years this column has been asking our 70-80 Republican state legislators to present a governing vision for Illinois. A few legislators have presented excellent outlines of what’s wrong along with their ideas for what must change. State Senator Chris Lauzen’s work has been posted and linked to on this website often.
But the vast majority of the rest of them are silent. As I’ve noted, this is why Illinois voters didn’t give the GOP control of state government: they didn’t know why they should.
This past Sunday our state starred in a CBS 60 Minutes segment on the many state fiscal messes around the country. Below is an excerpt from the transcript posted here. Enjoy.
[N]owhere has the reckoning been as bad as it is in Illinois, a state that spends twice much as it collects in taxes and is unable to pay its bills.
(CBS) “This is the state of affairs in Illinois. Is not pretty,” Illinois state Comptroller Dan Hynes told [CBS’s Steve] Kroft.
Hynes is the state’s paymaster. He currently has about $5 billion in outstanding bills in his office and not enough money in the state’s coffers to pay them. He says they’re six months behind.
“How many people do you have clamoring for money?” Kroft asked.
“It’s fair to say that there are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people waiting to be paid by the state,” Hynes said.
Asked how these people are getting by considering they’re not getting paid by the state, Hynes said, “Well, that’s the tragedy. People borrow money. They borrow in order to get by until the state pays them.”
“They’re subsidizing the state. They’re giving the state a float,” Kroft remarked.
“Exactly,” Hynes agreed.
“And who do you owe that money to?” Kroft asked.
“Pretty much anybody who has any interaction with state government, we owe money to,” Hynes said.
“The state’s a deadbeat,” Kroft remarked.
“Yeah. I mean, the state of Illinois is known as a deadbeat state. This is a reputation that has taken us years to earn and we’ve reached, you know, the heights of, I think, becoming the worst in the country,” Hynes said.
(CBS) “This is different, isn’t it?” Kroft asked New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie.
“It is very different,” Christie said. “The reason it’s different is because the only choices left are choices that people previously have said were politically impossible, that you couldn’t do. You couldn’t cut K to 12 education funding. You couldn’t do those things. They were, you couldn’t talk about pension and benefit reform for the public sector unions. That were third rails of politics. We are now left with no alternatives.”
“Just the third rail?” Kroft asked.
“Yeah, that’s it. I’m just gonna grab it and go, and let the chips fall where they may,” Christie said.
“This is unsustainable, right?” Kroft asked.
“Totally unsustainable. We have a benefit problem,” Christie said. “It’s not an income problem from the state. It’s a benefit problem. And so we gotta change those benefits.”