It's really hard not to roll your eyes when reading Progress Illinois' analysis of the state's FY2011 budget crisis. A piece entitled "Can Governor Quinn Convince Lawmakers to Fund our Future?" should strike us all as hilarious. When Progress Illinois (PI) writers say "our Future" they mean "their Future" since PI is owned and paid for by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
So, what's the crisis they write about? It's whether or not their pension coffers are refilled and how they will make it happen. The future they demanded includes a significant tax hike. Ralph Martire sides with SEIU's Progress Illinois. Noted PI:
The red ink is startling. Lawmakers already exhausted several one-time revenue sources last year that can't be tapped again. Martire guesses that without a tax increase of some sort, the state will run out of cash to fund public services sometime around February or March. "If that happens, what are they going to do?" he asked. "Just close down public schools and community colleges? Close down every senior center? Every agency that takes care of folks with mental health issues?"
Oh my. Oh my. Oh my! Martire's answer is to borrow to pay down pension costs, to raise the state's personal and corporate income taxes and -- you'll love this -- to spend more! Illinois just doesn't spend enough on state workers per capita:
[Martire's] organization has a blueprint to keep the state operating. In late October, CTBA released an 88-page, peer-reviewed report (PDF) that attempts to illustrate the "consequences of poor tax policy," a theme with which Progress Illinois readers should be very familiar.
"Funding Our Future" comes to several key conclusions. The first is that Illinois is a low-spending state. Despite registering the nation's fifth largest population and 13th largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Illinois ranked 43rd in state spending as a percentage of GDP in 2008, the last year for which funding was available. The state has also been cutting the size of its General Revenue Fund (GRF), which covers core services like education and health care, over time. When one adjusts for inflation, Gov. Pat Quinn's FY 2011 budget (after cuts) was actually 5 percent lower than what the General Assembly spent during former Governor Jim Edgar's administration. (IR Ed. note: Emphasis above added by us.)
That's the answer to the budget dilemma, Martire and SEIU agree. Let's hike those taxes, borrow more for our grandkids to pay off and spend more, more more!
We just can't wait to see what the Democrats will come up with next week when they return to Springfield. You can bet Martire and SEIU (and AFSCME, too) will be smiling. After all, they earned that raise getting Quinn that additional 19,000 votes he needed to beat budget-cutting Bill Brady.