Budget Boondoggle: Don't Blame Illinois

Almost every state in budget mess

Without a doubt, Illinois lawmakers are a special breed of stupid.

And criminal.

And childish.

In short, they suck.

But in the interest of fairness, let us now pause to consider that Illinois is hardly the only state in the midst of a budget meltdown.

The whole country, it seems, is broke.

Beyond broke, in fact.

In debt.

And un-budgeted.

At least 48 states have had to address or are still trying to address budget deficits that are crippling operations.

Only North Dakota and Montana have (seemingly) weathered the storm.

And a handful of other states that have managed to balance their budgets for now are basically fooling themselves.

"Most states start their fiscal year July 1 and have either adopted budgets for fiscal year 2010 or will do so shortly. In doing so, they have used federal stimulus dollars, cut spending, raised revenues, and drawn down reserves," the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says.

"Indications are that the budgets taking effect July 1 will not long be in balance because of continually eroding revenues. As of the last week in June, two-thirds of the states have adopted budgets for 2010 and already 12 of these states face new shortfalls totaling $23 billion before the fiscal year has even officially begun."

It's not just us.

For example, the New York Times reports this today:

"Indiana lawmakers beat their deadline and passed a state budget Tuesday evening, but in California and four other states, budget deals for the 2010 fiscal year remained in limbo, as legislators made last-minute efforts to avert shutdowns . . .

"All but four of the 50 states are supposed to have their budgets in place by Wednesday, the start of their fiscal year.

"With the deadline looming, Arizona, Mississippi, North Carolina and Pennsylvania also had not reached agreements. In Pennsylvania, state officials said they would not be shutting down services, at least not for several days. But Arizona lawmakers, unable to reconcile a $4 billion shortfall, faced a high likelihood of cuts to nonessential state services on Wednesday."

To be sure, Pat Quinn has looked weak, Michael Madigan has looked Machiavellian, John Cullerton has looked manipulative, and GOP leaders have looked insincere.

And the budget mess has nothing to do with the failure of state lawmakers to pass meaningful reform legislation that the citizenry is pleading for and that could have marked this session as a historic success.

But when it comes to the nitty gritty, the fact is that the numbers just don't add up in any way but ugly, not only for Illinois, but for 47 other states.

That doesn't excuse our special brand of politics, but in this case the Illinois Way isn't solely to blame.

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

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