Illinois to splurge on Christmas lights, despite mounting debt to utility company

Illinois to splurge on Christmas lights, despite mounting debt to utility company

Springfield won’t let millions in unpaid utility bills get in the way of nonessential spending.

While the holidays are around the corner, Illinois’ spending habits serve as a reminder not to get too far ahead of Black Friday just yet. The difference, however, is that Springfield’s indulgences won’t come at a marked-down price.

A spokesman for the Illinois secretary of state has announced the state will commit funds to Christmas decorations for the Capitol, according to the State Journal-Register.

This is the second year Springfield has ramped up its tab with City Water, Light and Power, or CWLP, on Christmas lights since the short-lived elimination of the tradition in 2015. With the announcement of the yearly expenditure’s discontinuation in 2015, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White pledged it would save the state $7,300 on electricity bills.

The Journal-Register quoted White spokesman Henry Haupt at the time, explaining, “While the lights add color to the Capitol landscape and are a nice tradition, the fact of the matter is the lights are nonessential and the Secretary of State’s office is cutting back wherever possible to save money.”

While a price tag that reads shorter than six digits might seem trivial to the spend-weary Illinoisan’s eye, the state’s pile of past-due bills owed to CWLP has reached $5.5 million.

Moreover, despite the state’s discontinuation of funding, Springfield residents did not go without their annual Illinois Capitol Christmas light spectacle in 2015.

The Basic Crafts Council of Mid-Central Illinois, a union organization, donated Christmas lights that year.

To meet demand, supply was voluntarily fulfilled. But this didn’t stop the state from once again insisting on intercepting the cost.

One should hope that the state soon becomes alert to the reality facing Illinois’ finances, and warm to commonsense solutions, before it isn’t just Christmas lights that the Illinois Capitol can’t afford to keep on.

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