WE ARE ILLINOIS
Sounding the alarm
Lake County News-Sun Editorial
State Republicans seem to be the only ones in Springfield who understand what happened last November, not only here but across the nation. Last week, the GOP unveiled a hard-times budget plan, calling for $5 billion in cuts from a $35 billion state budget proposed by Gov. Pat Quinn for next year.
The governor dismissed them, calling them “apostles of Draconian cuts,” adding, “I’m not listening to them.” This after Quinn challenged Republicans last month to craft their own budget plan if they rejected his.
Republicans are absolutely right to lay out major budget cuts. Despite major personal and corporate income tax increases in January, significant and painful budget cuts still are needed in Illinois.
The state owes its schools and social service agencies upward of $9 billion and is facing crippling pension costs. Those tax increases will help lighten that load, but Illinois also must scale back the cost of government to achieve true solvency.
Lake County municipalities and school districts are slashing their government payrolls — Waukegan is proposing to let go some 70 city workers, including police and fire, to cover its red-ink budget — and it’s time for the state to trim its work force. Private industry in Illinois has already done so and held pay increases to bare minimums, in some cases, asking for and getting givebacks.
The GOP plan calls for reducing pensions for current employees, and renegotiating state employee contracts, never an easy or quick process. State leaders should move forward on both fronts. As for cuts in the human services and educational areas, when your state is $15 billion in debt, something has to give in the short term until the Illinois and national economy perk up.
Republicans deserve plenty of credit for ringing the alarm bell in a responsible way and reviving a long-forgotten custom in Springfield. It’s called democracy, that intelligent, back-and-forth pursuit of the common good that long ago fell out of fashion in Springfield.
Meanwhile, the governor the other day touted high-speed rail from Chicago to St. Louis as a job-creating bonanza for Illinois. Don’t get us wrong, we think high-speed rail has merit. Only we can’t afford it right now because Illinois finances currently are on a runaway train.
SOURCE: Lake County News-Sun
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