The silly season is upon us — election time in Illinois. And as usual, the joke’s on us.
Everyone knows what our state politicians continue to ignore: Illinois is bankrupt. A study by the National Conference of State Legislatures shows that Illinois is in the worst financial condition of any state in the nation. That’s because, according to the Institute for Truth in Accounting, Illinois owes its various creditors (bond holders, pensioners, nonprofits) a total of about $140 billion. And the state has no ability to pay off even a fraction of this debt. No way, no how. Comptroller Dan Hynes said recently that the state even owes $5 billion to schools, universities, child care providers and rehab centers around the state.
So what’s a state facing a fiscal crisis to do to stave off bankruptcy? In Illinois the answer is keep borrowing. In the upcoming 2011 budget, the projection is that the state faces a $13 billion gap between spending on state operations and revenues. As usual, the state will close this gap by borrowing money rather than significantly cutting spending or increasing taxes. The Republicans blame the Democrats for being out-of-control spendaholics. The Democrats respond that they would love to cut spending and raise taxes, but only if the Republicans provide political cover. The result is a Mexican standoff. They don’t cut spending. They don’t raise taxes. They don’t do anything but keep borrowing. And for this sage leadership, our elected officials in Springfield want to be returned to office.
My party controls the governor’s mansion, the Senate and House. Yet Democrats are unwilling to pass any measures that would lead to even a slightly more responsible fiscal environment. So my response on Election Day is going to be to give them all a big Bronx cheer. Even though I am a lifelong Democrat, I am going to vote against every Democrat involved in state government on the ballot.
Pat Quinn? Sorry Pat. I am going to take my vote for governor about as seriously as Democrats are taking the fiscal crisis. And I know how to make my point. I am going to vote for pawnbroker and otherwise troubled individual Scott Lee Cohen. I missed voting for him to be lieutenant governor in the primary. What better way to send the message to Springfield that our state is now the preserve of clowns than by electing Cohen as governor? State Sen. Kimberly Lightford? Sorry. I am asking my friends to send you and your Senate colleagues a wakeup call because you aren’t getting it. State representatives running in Oak Park? Give me Green. Give me Republican. I don’t care. I am not going to vote for representatives of a Democratic Party whose sole raison d’etre is to keep Speaker Mike Madigan in control of the House.
If Democrats were about more than merely staying in power in Springfield, then the leadership in Springfield would have taken action. Instead, they are acting irresponsibly as politicians, and in return I get to be an irresponsible voter. And that’s exactly what I intend to do.
Jack Crowe is a third-generation Oak Parker. He cycles with the Lake and Harlem group, volunteers at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep in Austin.