Guest Editorial: Report at Beginning of 97th General Assembly
Guest editorial by state Sen. Chris Lauzen 25th District
I am generally a gullible person, typically believing what people tell me. Age is tempering my natural inclination by teaching me that it is wiser to watch what people do, rather than to immediately believe what they say.
I hope that I am not being naive to be encouraged by several developments within the swamp of Springfield events. My constituents can barely endure discussing the state’s current political and financial situation. They avert their eyes from the train wreck. They shake their heads, throw up their hands, and finally stick out their tongues. They instinctively realize that bankruptcy is the most severe failure of financial trust. And, Illinois is bankrupt.
Our problems have not gone away just because the governor, the ruling majorities and voters seem to be in denial. But, the election is over. Even with a staggering 67 percent income tax increase that is driving employers with jobs and seniors with assets out of Illinois, our appropriations staff has calculated a projection that shows our deficit of unpaid bills will triple within five years at our current spending and borrowing patterns. (Call my office at  264-2334 if you would like a copy).
Days after the election, I went to visit Quinn’s budget director and his chief of staff, who both are friends. I gave them three sheets of paper detailing nearly $6 billion of annual spending cuts and revenue increases, and asked for five to 10 minutes with the governor to discuss them. I have called more than eight times to follow up, but no word back. Maybe they don’t need help …
Here’s what encourages me. Republicans in the Senate realize that the situation is so serious that there is no room for playing games. They won’t be offering just one “spending cut” plan, but rather three, i.e. Senator Kyle McCarter’s plan, a Caucus Consensus, and one at the same spending levels where we were the last time we were paying our bills in 30-45 days.
There is also a growing maturity among “middle-management” Senate Democrat leaders. Senators John Sullivan and Heather Steans are competent, hard-working and less partisan appropriations chairmen. Senator Don Harmon is a smart bond attorney who understands the harsher realities of financial markets and enjoys the confidence of the clever Senate President John Cullerton. Even Speaker Mike Madigan has shown, by his recent actions of meeting with minority leadership in the House, that if we don’t tackle pension and hospitalization benefit levels for current state employees and teachers, the former $33 billion savings account for rank-and-file teachers in the Teachers Retirement System will vaporize to zero and taxpayers will be further exhausted.
The dark shadow on a horizon of hopeful but difficult potential solutions is the lack of truthful information coming from the governor’s own Budget Office. Remember how “lottery money will go toward education” and “tollways will be freeways when the bonds are paid off?” Well, now we’re expected to believe that Governor Quinn has cut $3 billion from state spending when, from his own Budget Report to New York bond bankers in January 2011, state spending has increased from 2009 to 2011 by $1.3 billion. Not a cut, but rather an increase in spending.
He and his local enablers said that the crippling 67 percent income tax increase would go to pay off our past due bills. However, if that is true, why is Quinn proposing an additional $8.5 billion in borrowed debt? Instead, the tax increases and borrowing are actually going to prop up continued gluttonous state spending that he guaranteed to the public employee unions during the campaign.
Legislators who voted for the tax increase cost my typical constituent family approximately $1,000 each year that they simply don’t have. There’s only one response remaining for any responsible public official: “Show me the spending cuts.”
Springfield, show me the cuts!