budget

Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun February 1, 2009

Ends and Means: The Governor's Troubles Distract from Illinois' Budget Woes

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit 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.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat November 1, 2008

Ends and Means: Illinois , Like States Across the Nation, Faces a Tight Revenue Squeeze

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit 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:

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue April 1, 2008

Ends and Means: The Grim Fact is This State is Flat-Out Broke

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit 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:

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat September 1, 2007

Ends and Means: The Dysfunctional Ds Set New Standards for Governing Incompetence

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit 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.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun April 1, 2007

Ends and Means: Should officials cash in state assets?

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit 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:

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu March 1, 2007

Editor's Notebook: Lawmakers face some major challenges. Already the strains are apparent

Peggy Boyer Long
Credit 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.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu June 1, 2006

Ends and Means: A thoughtful voter might conclude there's some truth on all sides of budget debate

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit 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.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed March 1, 2006

Ends and Means: The governor's budget is a political statement about his vision and campaign appeal

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit 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.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed February 1, 2006

Editor's Notebook: Lawmakers plan a quick trip but we will track the itinerary

Peggy Boyer Long
Credit 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. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue November 1, 2005

Uncle Sam's Pocket: Where there's federal cash, states choose to follow, losing rights along the way

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.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed June 1, 2005

Ends and Means: Democrats declared a holiday and left Springfield for the summer

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit 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."

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun May 1, 2005

State of the State: The governor has ruled out a tax hike so budgeteers will need to be creative

Pat Guinane
Credit 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.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue March 1, 2005

Ends and Means: The governor's budget plan counts on illusion and wishful thinking

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit 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.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue February 1, 2005

Ends and Means: Illinois House leaders plan regional budget hearings to gather citizen input

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit 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.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat January 1, 2005

Planning for Illinois' Future? Why can't politicians behave like the work-for-tomorrow ant?

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.     

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue June 1, 2004

Editor's Notebook: We have only ourselves to blame if the budget is a dry hole and rhetoric is hot

Peggy Boyer Long
Credit 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. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat November 1, 2003

State of the State: What, me worry? The governor is happy with his first budget

Aaron Chambers
Credit 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.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed October 1, 2003

State of the State: Lawmakers could revisit the state's new fee structure

Aaron Chambers
Credit 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.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon September 1, 2003

Editor's Notebook: Despite good economic news the states are still staring down budget woes

Peggy Boyer Long
Credit 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.

 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue April 1, 2003

Editor's Notebook: The Statehouse is where federal and local policy meet

Peggy Boyer Long
Credit 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.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat February 1, 2003

Ends and Means: The Hot Rod Express speeds toward a Budget Deficit behemoth

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit 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.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed January 1, 2003

Publisher's Gallery: Illinois budgeteers might consider this solution to the state's budget crisis

Mike Morsch
Credit 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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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat June 1, 2002

Politics: Lawmakers' summer vacation could be over almost before it starts

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Facing perhaps the worst fiscal crisis in state history, Illinois lawmakers chose an equally unprecedented remedy — selling long-term bonds — to help fill a $1-billion-plus hole in the state’s day-to-day operating budget.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed May 1, 2002

Reality Bites: Fiscal fallout from federal stimulus plan will make a difference in the state budget

The Chicago school system will lose. City government in Decatur will feel the pinch. And the cash-strapped state of Illinois will be out hundreds of millions of dollars.The sudden, unexpected revival of a federal economic stimulus plan earlier this year dealt a major blow to Illinois state finances. Illinois schools, municipalities and other local governments will feel the bite, too. But the biggest loser will be the state’s general revenue fund.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed May 1, 2002

Editor's Notebook: A bucket of courage will be needed to bail out the state budget

Peggy Boyer Long
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Fish or cut bait. That phrase comes readily to mind every year at just about this time. 

With the scheduled end of the spring legislative session mere weeks away, lawmakers, and the governor, face some of the toughest fiscal choices in recent memory. State revenues are sinking, expenses rising. And the fall election is visible already on a not-so-distant shore. By the end of May, they’ll need to find some way to patch a $1.3 billion hole, maybe bigger, in Gov. George Ryan’s budget for the coming year. It won’t be easy.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed May 1, 2002

Politics: It’s budget crunch time. Is there a statesman in Illinois government?

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Is there a statesman in the House? The Senate? The Executive Mansion? Anywhere in state government?

As the Illinois General Assembly moves into the final month of the spring session, it seems fitting to pose a question — albeit rhetorical — about the quality of leadership in Springfield.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon April 1, 2002

Budget Cuts Put Family Gains at Risk: Slowing economy threatens to erode advances in public policy

It’s been a difficult year for Nora Watters and her family. The 38-year-old Decatur woman has managed to find work, but her job with the National Opinion Research Center only brings in an occasional paycheck. The family of four, which earned about $30,000 last year, has been on an especially tight budget since last fall when Watters’ husband lost his full-time job at a local car dealership. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri March 1, 2002

Politics: Second thoughts are warranted on the governor's final spending plan

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

In proposing a $52.8 billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, Gov. George Ryan issued a warning to the Illinois General Assembly: Go beyond my bottom line, and I’ll veto the entire budget.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue January 1, 2002

Politics: Golden parachutes and lumps of coal were among state budget adjustments

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Christmas came early last month for some of Illinois’ public servants, with mixed results.

Two high-profile officials making career changes received handsome going away presents to help smooth their transitions. The beneficiaries of the holiday good will were outgoing state Schools Superintendent Glenn “Max” McGee and retiring state Rep. Andrea Moore, a Libertyville Republican. 

McGee was given a six-month, $125,000 consulting contract by the State Board of Education, the same folks who pushed him out the door last summer. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu November 1, 2001

Politics: An uncertain economy could force lawmakers to pare down the budget

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The terrorist attacks that toppled the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City some eight weeks ago also dealt a serious blow to the state's fiscal well-being. The economic fallout from the attacks, coming as the state already was feeling the impact of a slumping economy, led Gov. George Ryan and administration budget officials to take belt-tightening steps not seen since the fiscal crisis of a decade ago. 

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