Illinois taxpayers learned last week that the state’s credit rating was downgraded again as a result of the ghastly state of our fiscal affairs. We own the unenviable, but richly deserved position of being the least creditworthy state in America. The credit rating agency also took the position that our future prospects are so negative that a further downgrade of our creditworthiness is on the horizon.
This action has real consequences for citizens of the state. Higher state borrowing costs caused by lower credit ratings almost certainly mean bigger tax bills. And businesses considering location cannot see a state teetering on the brink of economic ruin as an attractive option, particularly in light of the favorable tax rates and healthy fiscal conditions in several of the states around us — Indiana, Iowa and Missouri have perfect credit ratings. Our dire fiscal situation is not news to our lawmakers, but they are clearly beneath the task of addressing it; they are fiddling while the state burns.
Indeed, instead of addressing our looming bankruptcy — the matter all serious people in the state know is the most pressing priority confronting Illinois legislators — we got, among other things, feverish work on a revised legislative map created to solidify Democratic control of the state, a revision to current law that amounts to a pay raise for plaintiff personal injury attorneys, and driver’s licenses for the undocumented. There is a plausible case that addressing the driver’s license matter has some salutary effect on the state (redistricting is pure, unadulterated political self-aggrandizement, as is, arguably, raising statutory recovery levels for personal injury attorneys who donate richly to our legislators), but to attend to that issue before ordering our financial house is simply unforgiveable.
Here is a modest proposal for all of the multi-term, career politicians whose profligate spending has put us into this hole and who continually abdicate responsibility for fixing the problem: demonstrate that you still possess some measure of honor by announcing that you are, having failed your constituents, either resigning, effective immediately, or that you will not seek re-election, so room can be made in Springfield for people who will at least try to solve the real problem facing the state — insolvency.