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Fiscal new year anything but happy

Specter of debt haunts Illinois

Published: Friday, July 5, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST

Phhhweeeeeeeeeeettttt. Happy fiscal new year! That’s the sound of a half-hearted noisemaker, given the fact that in Illinois the start of a new budget year Monday meant a “clean slate” was still sullied with $6.1 billion in debt.

What’s worse, according to Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, is that doesn’t take into consideration another $1 billion or so in financial obligations that are likely to be added to the tally quickly.

Topinka’s office estimates it will come out to about $7.5 billion within the next few weeks.

That’s exactly how deep into the red the state ended the previous fiscal year.

While stagnation would be a welcome change to the state’s pathetic financial outlook, the state had the advantage this past year of a $1.3 billion bump in tax revenue.

While it provided a little breathing room now, its blessing will be short-lived because the state continues to ignore the underlying problem: spending.

Instead, lawmakers continue to push more of the weight for their inability to control costs onto the taxpayer. It’s no real secret that a massive hike in personal and business taxes that was promised as a temporary measure to pay some of the backlog of bills is neither temporary nor helpful.

Estimates released last week indicate about 20 cents of every dollar raised by the tax hike actually went toward paying bills – instead, the bulk was needed to throw into the chasm known as pension funding.

Meanwhile, 73,184 bills are sitting in Springfield unpaid, and it’s only going to get scarier. The bills cover everything from money owed to schools and hospitals to mom-and-pop establishments that have done business with the state.

The governor and lawmakers have had years to fix this, but seem incapable or unwilling to do so.

It’s time to see some financial leadership from those who call themselves our leaders.

Fix the pension system. Pay the bills. Cut spending. Take the burden off of taxpayers.

Then, we can truly celebrate.

 

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