Illinois missed the boat again. State lawmakers had the opportunity to make a real difference by rethinking medical marijuana and casino gambling expansion proposals in the waning days of the spring legislative session, ideas that could have brought some major bucks to the Land of Lincoln.
A state that knows no end of bad ideas when it comes to spending too much money seems clueless on how to raise some. Legislators showed how they feel about the future of the state’s finances by killing the best-chance Madigan pension reform bill. Illinois should throw in the towel and admit that things are so bad that gambling and dope are the only options left. Legislators are talking up a restrictive pilot medical marijuana program and an expansion of gambling that only contemplates five new casinos. With bankruptcy around the corner, this is not the time for restraint.
Casinos and dope are the ticket for broke Illinois.
Here’s a chance for a badly needed haul from casino gambling and marijuana at a time when Illinois is ready to disappear off its own fiscal cliff. We need the cash and Illinois has never been shy about ill-considered ideas, so what’s the holdup? Are politicians too busy trying to get their slice of the state’s dwindling finances to see the big picture?
Just think of the possibilities. We could yank the soda machines out of schools and replace them with slot machines. Thinner kids could mean funded pensions. Everybody wins. Why stop at medical marijuana? Legalize the drug, tax the hell out of it, and sell it alongside one-armed bandits on every street corner so disinhibited gamblers will empty their wallets. Chicago tried a similar approach with fines and taxes. It didn’t work. Taxes piss people off. Why not give them something they might enjoy to distract them from the climate of doom that permeates our state?
Other states are busy trying to lure away Illinois’ businesses with promises of a future that does not involve higher taxes and ruin. Illinois can fight back with weekend dope and casino gambling packages that will give legal marijuana states Colorado and Washington some stiff tourist competition. The possibilities for catchy marketing slogans are endless: Come to the Windy City and Blow Your Mind!
Illinois should have been prepared to push medical marijuana and casino gambling to the limit to bolster the budget, but given the state’s legacy of corruption maybe our politicians are getting wiser. Did they finally figure out that the lure of all that money would be too much? Whatever their thinking, we have to assume it had nothing to do with the good of the state or they would not have killed off another last-ditch chance to deal with pension debt. At least state residents can take heart knowing that whatever plan lawmakers might have settled on to raise some cash to bail out Illinois, it would have ended up being just another bad idea that digs taxpayers a deeper hole.