Madigan budget laced with wasteful spending
The broken state budget proposed by House Speaker Mike Madigan includes spending on wine production, mosquito abatement and a student newspaper.
Illinois’ political leaders are throwing up their hands, putting together a last-minute budget with a $3 billion deficit.
They have turned to their well-worn script: State government is cut to the bone, and it is left with just one solution – raise taxes.
Yet researchers at the Illinois Policy Institute have gone through the budget and found numerous examples of spending that has little to do with core government services.
This year’s legislative session ends May 31. Lawmakers need a simple majority to pass a budget. After that, the bar rises to a three-fifths vote. Lawmakers’ fight with the governor will probably last for months to come.
Many items in House Speaker Mike Madigan’s proposed budget are earmarks, meaning money designated for specific agencies and organizations. Legislative leaders likely inserted these items to win over particular lawmakers – all a part of the horse trading in Springfield that results in mountains of unnecessary spending.
The budget also picks winners and losers in the business community. This is not only wasteful, but should not be the role of government.
Some examples of questionable spending found by the Institute’s researchers are as follows:
- $150,000 to develop Illinois’ grape and wine industry. This industry is either viable or not; $150,000 will not change its fate.
- $15 million for the operations of the East St. Louis Community College Center, which is run by a nonprofit group. No other similar institution was singled out for such funding.
- $391,000 for Rock Valley College “for programs transitioning high school students.” No other college was singled out for transitioning students.
- $1 million for an ethanol fuel research program. The federal government has long subsidized ethanol, so why do state taxpayers need to throw more money at it? Either it will survive in the free market or not.
- $200,000 for mosquito abatement at the University of Illinois, and another $200,0000 for research on the same. Why would the state target mosquitos at one university but not others? Each school should take care of its own problem.
- $93,000 for the Washington Center internship program, which provides students with internships in the nation’s capital.
- $64,000 for Southern Illinois University’s student Daily Egyptian newspaper. No other student newspaper received an earmarked subsidy.
- $1.3 million from the solid waste management fund for “removal or remediation at Worthy Park, Cook County hazardous waste site.” This was the only specific site targeted for funding.
- $285,000 for an urban fishing program sponsored by the Chicago Park District. The park district’s website says the program is designed to provide “better local fishing opportunities.”
- $4.6 million from the Cycle Rider Safety Training Fund for “reimbursements to state and local universities and colleges for Cycle Rider Safety Training Programs.” Colleges can address cycling issues within their current budgets as they see fit.
- $42 million from the road fund for “intercity rail passenger service,” or Amtrak. Passengers should assume the costs of this service, not all state taxpayers.
- $733,100 for the Illinois Latino Family Commission. The terms of 10 of the commission’s 15 members appointed by the governor and legislative leaders expired years ago. If this agency is so critical, why has state government forgotten about it? The five remaining members all hail from Cook County, leaving more than half the state without representation.
- $550,000 for the city of Chicago for “administrative costs incurred as a result of the State’s Underground Storage Program.” No other municipality was singled out for these funds.
- $1.4 million for the Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois program. If colleges are lacking diversity, they can find money within their own budgets to address the issue.
- $77,900 for the Quad-Cities Graduate Studies Center, a nonprofit group. No other such facility was singled out.
- $250,000 for the Illinois Department of Corrections Green Recycling initiatives. Why do the prisons need a specific grant to promote recycling? Most organizations and individuals handle this task without additional assistance.
Every single program in the budget must undergo a strict test for its survival: Is it an absolutely essential government service? There can be no sacred cows. If unnecessary spending remains in the state budget, lawmakers will have no moral authority to ask for more money from taxpayers.
As it is, Illinois is seeing an exodus of residents and businesses, largely because of high taxes and the state’s anti-business policies.
To turn the state around, Illinois leaders must create a pro-growth climate, which means freezing property taxes and reforming the state’s costly workers’ compensation system, among other measures.
Yet many legislators won’t hear of it. Discussions on pro-growth reforms, state Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, told the Daily Herald, are “clearly a distraction from the task at hand to pass a responsible budget.”
Not so. These issues are central to bringing prosperity to Illinois. Illinois’ leaders must cut all nonessential spending – there’s plenty of it – before asking for still more from taxpayers.