Budget Baloney

"Irresponsible, reckless" budget on borrowed money and time

The state finally has a budget.

Or does it?

The bill signed by Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday night depends on $3.5 billion in borrowing to keep the state afloat without an income tax increase or the most painful cuts in services that were warned, though there will still be plenty.

And nobody seems happy about it.

"We're doing this because we have to do it. But it's wrong to do it," said Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago). "The General Assembly will reconvene in January to address our need for additional revenue."

"We're on the brink of a man-made disaster," said state Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo). "This is nothing more than smoke and mirrors ... It's irresponsible and it's reckless."

"It avoids chaos. It avoids a tax increase," said Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont). "[It's the] "best of a number of bad solutions put before us."

In familiar political parlance, the budget kicks the can down the road.

"The moves brought to a close the marathon legislative session that blew past its May 31 deadline but did little to resolve lingering budget problems that increasingly threaten state finances year after year," the Daily Herald reports.

"Most notably the deal does not reduce the massive, multibillion-dollar backlog of bills piling up in the comptroller's office. Rather, the budget plan counts on continuing to delay more than $3 billion in payments in order to make the numbers balance.

"That means unless lawmakers revisit the budget in the coming months or there's an economic turnaround of gigantic proportions, there'll be yet another massive hole in next year's spending plan."

In other words, there's never a good time for tax increases or spending cuts -- except when times are good and you don't need either.

The only advantage to pushing the tough choices to next year is the additional time to create new ideas or lobby for old ones. The downside is moving that debate closer to re-election time for weak-kneed legislators.

On the other hand, all eyes are now on Quinn. The legislation gives the governor wide latitude to make spending cuts still necessary even with the massive borrowing.

“We have essentially made him king of Illinois,” said state Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago).

Given the rough road ahead, that means Quinn might end up being the biggest loser of them all.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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