Editorial: Gridlock starts to hit home

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

AS FRUSTRATING as it  is to watch the state  bureaucracy not do its job month after month, to  most of us it is more of  an annoyance than a real concern.   We can grouse about “what clowns those legislators are” or  shout,  “Impeach the governor!,” but for the most part our lives  continue without  major disruptions despite the gridlock at the  Statehouse.  Of course, if you are a pharmacist or doctor waiting  months to be paid  for your services, it’s far more than an annoyance —  we just received a  note from one doctor in Carlinville who is now  being paid for services  rendered last January.

Same goes for a whole  variety of nonprofits and  social service agencies, some that find  themselves cut from the budget so  the governor can pursue his  health-care dreams and others who simply have  trouble getting paid.   Still though, most of our 12 million or so residents are not on   Medicaid; they aren’t awaiting hard-to-get drug counseling or  treatment;  they are not developmentally disabled and in need of an  assistant. The  masses have not been directly touched by the ineptitude  of our state  government.  

BUT THE STATE of Illinois’  shenanigans finally are hitting  closer to home. While only a fraction  of us rely on direct state services,  the vast majority of us live in  communities that rely on timely tax  payments from the state of  Illinois.  We learned this week in a report from SJ-R staff writer  Chris Wetterich  that the state is $1.6 million behind in income tax  payments to the city  of Springfield. The capital city need not feel  alone.

The state is falling  behind on paying all of its bills.   “Historically around now, the volume of bills exceeds revenue. That’s   exacerbated by what appears to be a slowing of receipts,” said Alan  Henry,  spokesman for Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes — the unlucky guy  charged  with paying state bills.  In fact, the comptroller now  has $1.75 billion in unpaid bills. That  has state government about  three weeks, or more, behind its normal payment  schedule.   Springfield officials say they are owed both October and November   income tax payments from the state. And while a city spokesman said  the  slow payments pose no “short-term” problems for Springfield, if  this drags  on much longer, the city could face cash-flow problems by  early in the new  year.  Other towns are already feeling the  pinch. For example, Bloomington,  which is also owed more than $1  million in income tax receipts, is  contemplating borrowing money to  make ends meet. 

MEANWHILE, state government remains  moribund. Too many  legislators, and especially the governor, still  seem willing to rely on  budgetary tricks rather than real solutions to  right the ship of state.  One example: A bill was carefully negotiated  and crafted that would  have relied primarily on a small sales tax  increase in Chicago and the  suburbs to provide money to prop up the  ailing finances of the Chicago  mass transit system (RTA and CTA). The  bill also attempted to deal with  those systems’ pension and  health-care problems.  But such a solution is too straightforward for  our leaders. Gov. Rod  Blagojevich WILL NOT RAISE REGULAR PEOPLE’S  TAXES! But Blagojevich will  attempt to appropriate nearly half a  billion dollars for new state  spending on health care at a time when  the state cannot make its existing  payments. 

If our state  leaders continue to engage in smoke-and-mirrors tactics  and avoid  acknowledging there is no free lunch, eventually those esoteric  state  problems will become real financial problems for most all of us.  Maybe  when enough of us realize that, we’ll demand some solutions.