If you owed more than $30,000 on your credit cards and were strapped for cash, would you spend $1,500 on a new home entertainment system?
I didn’t think so.
But making responsible fiscal decisions like this takes restraint and the discipline to live within your means – traits that members of the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Pat Quinn lack.
This sad truth became even clearer yesterday when Springfield lawmakers approved $1.56 billion in new spending, according to the Chicago Tribune.
This includes $675 million for new road construction projects and $12 million for community mental health program grants.
It also includes a cool $9 million toward the failing East St. Louis school system – just to help them meet payroll.
And $550 million of the new appropriations is for health insurance costs. If Quinn would have implemented our comprehensive plan for reforming retiree health insurance, the state could have saved $437 million. Our plan is authorized by Public Act 97-0695, which Quinn signed into law last June. Instead of implementing the law, however, Quinn has continued to delay much-needed retiree health reforms, costing state taxpayers $1.2 million every single day.
In the meantime, Illinois still owes $9.4 billion in unpaid bills. Quinn’s budget projections speculate that by the end of 2013 the state will still owe $8.3 billion. That includes money owed to school districts, health care providers and the utility companies that keep government’s electricity up and running each day.
Add to that amount $54 billion in retiree health care debt, $209 billion in pension debt (under new accounting rules) and $33 billion in general bond obligations and Illinois has more than $305 billion in debt.
This is not how capable leaders operate. Lawmakers in Springfield have no qualms about spending money they – and their taxpayers – don’t have.
But what’s another billion among friends? As the state has proven yet again with the example of funds for East St. Louis, it has no problem bailing out poor performers unwilling to make sacrifices on their own.
How long will it be until the reckless team down in Springfield asks for a bailout of its own?
It’s time to rein in out-of-control spending, and enact real health care and pension reform. Otherwise, the tab will only get bigger.