In 2011, Illinois increased its state income tax rate by 67 percent. This tax increase, the largest in state history, cost the average family about $1,500 in additional taxes. Across school districts, municipalities and other local levels of government, taxpayers have faced myriad other tax increases – from gas and sales taxes to congestion fees and excise taxes. Governments keep crying poor and going to taxpayers for more and more, but they should instead look within their own budgets and cut out wasteful spending.

Illinois’ fiscal nightmare is here. Overspending and a penchant for borrowing have led to an unsustainable pension liability and an $8 billion stack of unpaid bills. The state’s credit rating, already the worst in the nation, faces further downgrades. Many local government entities are also in the red.

But instead of spurring elected officials to initiate reforms, cut spending and eliminate waste, officials are doing more of the same – squandering taxpayers’ hard-earned money on frivolous and wasteful expenditures.

From $9,941 for “Speedy-the-Turtle” bobbleheads to $200,000 customized eco-friendly zip lines, much of the waste is just downright silly. But there’s no laugh track playing as taxpayers foot a $2,261,009 cable TV bill for prison inmates to get their weekly fill of Seacrest and Snooki.

Other examples of waste come in the form of grants, subsidies and special tax treatment for businesses, along with handouts for nonprofits and associations. Even local governments get on board the gravy train.

Officials handing out this money justify the subsidies by claiming to “nurture innovation” and “create jobs.”

When the government gives millions of taxpayer dollars to MillerCoors and Boeing Co. for relocation, and thousands of taxpayer dollars to AT&T Inc. and Navistar International Corp. to train employees, the logic offered up is that this transfer of resources promotes a skilled labor force and greater business activity.

But the story that’s often not told is that to fund this corporate favoritism, the state must take money from families, corporations, small businesses and struggling entrepreneurs.

That weighs down investment and growth, resulting in fewer startups, lost economic output and reduced job creation. That’s real waste.

The 2012 Illinois Piglet Book highlights nearly 200 examples of wasteful government spending in Illinois. Each item highlights the decisions of politicians who have lost sight of the core governmental services they were put in place to provide.

Illinoisans will be better off when leaders finally end the undermining and corroding culture of out-of-control spending. It’s time to wake up from this fiscal nightmare.