budget

Pharmacist David Mikus of the Medicine Shoppe in Springfield
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Todd Evers is in constant conversation with his bank, most recently in August, to prepare for the “inevitable what if.” What if the state stops paying?

He has had to borrow money twice a year for the past decade to keep open his group of pharmacies in Collinsville and the St. Louis area as he waits for a check from the Illinois comptroller that will pay him for services he provided to public aid customers months ago. 

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

It’s said that misery loves company. If that’s true, Illinois has plenty of both.

The misery stems from money and programs that lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn have extracted from the state budget to try to fight the decay in state revenues caused by the economic recession. The company comes from other states that face the same massive financial problems.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Centers for people with disabilities and many other community-based services have known for months that they were unlikely to receive as much state funding as they have in previous years.

But even a 10 percent to 20 percent reduction in funding can significantly alter their clients’ daily lives.

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

When the smoke finally cleared in mid-July after the battle to produce a state budget, it was immediately obvious that the ashes were still smoldering and ready to reignite at any moment.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As the legislative session gets under way each January amid a blizzard of bill introductions, Statehouse watchers have modest expectations: All lawmakers really have to do is pass a budget.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Democrats and Republicans fully expected to make tough choices this year. As they react to the 17th month of a national recession and a $12.4 billion deficit projected for next year, Illinois lawmakers are on the hot seat now.

Gov. Pat Quinn proposed his own plan that would trim spending and generate new revenues. Some of his money-making ideas are expected to create tough votes for lawmakers before May 31, the day they’re supposed to adjourn the spring legislative session. 

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Just as Illinois citizens want to know when federal stimulus money will trickle down to help them pay their mortgages or open the door to jobs, state officials want to know when the money will help them avoid drastic cuts to services or painful increases in state taxes.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn and state legislators will have to be held accountable on spending this year. They can’t afford not to be.

Without help from a federal stimulus package, the state could face up to a $9 billion deficit. Declining revenues merge with overdue bills for an ominous picture. And that’s before the nation’s economic crisis is fully taken into account.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In recent weeks, the Gov. Rod Blagojevich sideshow has attracted an international audience, with its latest twists and turns now regular fare on the BBC’s world news broadcasts.

While becoming an international laughingstock is certainly embarrassing, the unwanted attention also has created an unwelcome distraction from the grave problems facing the state and its citizens.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A few weeks ago, Congress and the George W. Bush administration cobbled together a $700 billion rescue plan for Wall Street, in hopes of avoiding economic catastrophe for Main Street.

Too bad the plan’s architects didn’t worry about Capitol Avenue and Statehouse Square as well, as state governments from California to Rhode Island struggle with sagging revenue growth that is jeopardizing their ability to provide needed services.

Noted Stateline.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan online news site last month:

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

 

As Illinois lawmakers return from spring break for what everyone fervently hopes will be the last two months of the legislative session, one grim fact overshadows all others: The state is flat-out broke. No, even worse, it’s plunged deep in debt, the result of years of living beyond its means.

Consider a smattering of news items that appeared before the General Assembly left Springfield in mid-March:

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As the seemingly interminable spring legislative session drags on through the dog days of summer and lawmakers begin circulating petitions for re-election, Democratic lawmakers can't be enthusiastic about the record compiled by their leaders.

Despite controlling all the levers of the lawmaking machinery — the governorship and majorities in both the Senate and the House — the dysfunctional Ds set new standards for governing incompetence.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood... ."

Daniel H. Burnham

In his State of the State/budget address last month, Gov. Rod Blagojevich quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and cited Hercules' struggle to kill the many-headed Hydra.

But the $60 billion spending plan he presented also seemed to embody the advice of the famed Chicago architect, for it was truly super-sized. Blagojevich called for:

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

So it begins. Illinois lawmakers have returned to Springfield and are getting under way on what could become the most significant spring session in recent memory — and most likely the longest-running since 2004, when an overtime session threatened lawmakers' July 4th festivities. 

That year, the state budget was a shambles. Officials were sitting on overdue bills, delaying obligations to public pension systems and ignoring needed repairs on roads and schools. Lawmakers took a swing at providing adequate per pupil funding but dropped the ball on inequities in school spending.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

"This spending plan reflects our values. This spending plan responds to working families ... [and the] unfortunate in our state." 

Sen. Jeffrey M. Schoenberg, an Evanston Democrat.

 "This is a fiscal fiasco that is staring the taxpayers in the face. What we have is a champagne and caviar budget when we can't afford it." 

Rep. Dave Winters, a Shirland Republican.

"We found just the right level of funding to make this budget work." 

Rep. Gary Hannig, a Litchfield Democrat.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A couple of weeks ago, Gov. Rod Blagojevich formally announced what most folks thought has been pretty apparent since the day he took office — he is seeking another term as the state's chief executive.

The governor's statewide flyaround followed by a few days his budget address to a joint session of the Illinois legislature, in which he unveiled a $55.3 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Fasten those seat belts. The spring legislative session is on a fast track. This being an election year, no one wants to run into unexpected controversies. This being Illinois, the ride could get bumpy.

Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn April 7, nearly two months before the state's constitutional deadline. But in these next few weeks, they'll have a lot of ground to cover. 

The classroom, the polling place and now the DMV. Uncle Sam keeps showing up in the most peculiar places.

These unwelcome intrusions onto state turf come under the banner of federalism, the notion that a national policy will reap results across all states.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As Democratic leaders prepared to ram a $54-plus billion budget through the Illinois legislature on May 31 — thus avoiding another overtime session — Gov. Rod Blagojevich was ebullient. "I feel real good about the session," he told reporters following cameo appearances in the Senate and the House. "My only regret is that it has to end now."

Pat Guinane
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Two contradictory pledges, more than anything else, have come to define Rod Blagojevich's tenure as governor. Since the campaign trail, the Chicago Democrat has promised he wouldn't hike income or sales taxes to erase the state deficit. And he wouldn't balance the budget by slashing spending on education, health care or public safety.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In his 1817 autobiography, British poet Samuel Coleridge wrote of a "willing suspension of disbelief" that enables a reader to become caught up in a work of fiction.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich must have been hoping for a similar state of mind among legislators and other Illinois citizens last month when he presented his proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Don’t expect the glitz of a rock concert or the fervor of a tent revival, but the Illinois House’s Budget 2006 road show could be a top draw in coming weeks.

Why is Illinois borrowing to pay state operating expenses? Will the state employee pension system be solvent after those early retirement deals? How will the state close the budget deficit?

Illinois hasn’t been the only state to face long-term fiscal and policy crises in recent years. Remember California’s energy shutdown? Who could forget Florida’s ballot debacles? And now every state seems to be grappling with a shortage of flu vaccine.     

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Hard to believe. A few years back, state leaders mailed property tax “rebates” to homeowners. They gave motorists a pass on the sales tax at the pump and scattered thousands, no millions, of state dollars across Illinois’ myriad towns and hamlets so locals could dedicate statues, decorate parking garages and deliver tutus to tiny ballerinas. It was quite a time. 

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has on his happy face. Since the General Assembly adjourned for the summer, the governor has been busy applauding his administration for plugging a $5 billion budget hole. After all, he won the Executive Mansion by running against “business as usual” cronyism, wasteful spending and budget talks behind closed doors.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

What’s in a name? A tax by any other name hits just as hard.

Taxes provide dollars for everyday government expenses. Fees, at least in the traditional sense, provide funds for specific purposes. Then, in Illinois’ current spending plan, there’s the hybrid: fees that resemble taxes.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The running joke at this summer’s annual conference of state government reporters was that the recession is over. Economists with the National Bureau of Economic Research, a nonprofit organization, say it ended in November 2001.

 

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

It’s tough being a governor these days. There’s no question about that.

Nationwide, states are facing their worst fiscal crises in more than 50 years. And some say Illinois is facing its worst ever. That’s a bit of political hyperbole, perhaps, but not far off the mark. Times are grim.

Going into his first state budget, Gov. Rod Blagojevich is staring down a $1.2 billion hole. His estimate. By the end of the budget year that begins this summer, he’ll have to fill another $3.6 billion hole. Again, his estimate.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

"I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Repeating that optimistic mantra, a bouffant-haired figure shovels coal into the firebox of a speeding locomotive bearing a “Hot Rod Express” nameplate.

Looming ahead, a gargantuan figure wearing a “Budget Deficit” T-shirt sprawls, bound, across the tracks. “Think again,” says the behemoth.

Mike Morsch
WUIS/Illinois Issues

I have the answer to Illinois' budget woes and it's quite simple, really. 

The state should win its own lottery. 

After all, according to the lottery's Web site (www.illinoislottery.com), ?You don't have to be good with numbers to play the lottery.?

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