He probably didn’t realize it when he said it, but Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s widely circulated remark about what Illinois government should do for residents “who need the government to be helpful to them.”1,2 will go down in state history for summing up the very worst thing about what his decades in office have accomplished. Illinois government isn’t about what government can do to help. It’s about what it can do to help itself by further entrenching its needs in our bank accounts.
Balanced budget fantasy: this is how Illinois government helps
Madigan’s budget strategy mirrors the flawed thinking we see in Washington on a much grander scale. “For the people” means by the government, the bigger the better to keep taxpayers on the hook.
A budget proposal that comes up billions short in a state with a balanced budget amendment should make federal lawmakers think twice before they waste their time and our money debating their own balanced budget law. Granted, Illinois government makes Washington look like a paragon of responsibility, but we should still think about what budgeting means to Washington before Obama’s first four years of deficits fade from memory. If state and federal lawmakers really want to balance their budgets they need to spend less money. It really is that simple. If they want to ignore the safeguards they set in place, Illinois is proof just how easy that is to do.
Rauner’s Illinois Turnaround is a fool’s errand
Bruce Rauner’s plan for an Illinois Turnaround only points out the obvious. We already know what needs to be fixed and whose wings need to be clipped. Unions, pensions, broke Chicago, schools, term limits, government abuse, and the pipe dream of taxpayer salvation3 are favorites with Illinois Republicans and Democrats alike, albeit from opposite sides of the fence. The problems never go away and they don’t get fixed, either. Is that the real strategy?
Illinois has pushed the idea of government being more dangerous than it is worth to the extreme. Pundits are hashing and rehashing the finer details of Rauner’s and Madigan’s thoughts on the best budget to help the people of this state, but the discussion is pointless because the simple solution seems impossible: stop spending so much.
Budget cuts do not exist
There is no such thing as a “budget cut.” Budgets are revised every year. Each budget is new. Politics demands that we vex over what Illinois needs to cut and who is going to be punished, so the forward-looking dialogue and encouraging rhetoric delivered a budget proposal that keeps state taxpayers billions in the hole.
The real irony isn’t that we have a balanced budget law and a proposal for a budget so egregiously unbalanced because lawmakers are incapable of recognizing the damage they have caused and the need to spend less to correct it. The irony is how much the state disregards the need for taxpayers’ budgets to also be balanced and for residents to not have to live in fear of the next tax increase.
Want to help the people? Shut down Springfield.
Only by doing the wrong things for the right reasons will we stand a chance of turning this embarrassment of a state around. If Madigan really wants Illinois government to help the people he should close the doors, turn off the lights in Springfield, and outsource this disaster to someone responsible enough to do the things that Democrats are so afraid of and Governor Rauner will never be allowed to try.