Money alone won't fix Illinois

June 28, 2014 

In the eyes of Gov. Pat Quinn and many lawmakers, fixing Illinois means making the income tax increase permanent. But that's not going to do it.

In the book "Fixing Illinois," authors James D. Nowlan and J. Thomas Johnson note that even if the state keeps collecting those extra tax dollars, Illinois is projected to have a deficit of about $2 billion a year.

What Illinois really needs are different, more cost-effective ways of conducting business. For instance, simplifying and automating the state's cash accounting system would save on overhead and make money available immediately.

Now, the authors say it can be days, and sometimes weeks, between when an agency gets funds and when they are available for spending. There's a paper-intensive back and forth between the agency, the treasurer and the comptroller. (Whatever happened to the plans to combine the treasurer and comptroller into one office?)

Automating the system would create a $200 million benefit, according to the authors.

Illinois has more than 900 separate funds to maintain, which is unnecessarily inefficient and creates hundreds of opportunities for mistakes. By comparison, Michigan has 76 funds and Wisconsin, 60.

The book is filled with thoughtful suggestions like these. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be the political will to make even minor changes much less major ones.

Unless that attitude changes, the taxpayers are in for a long, bumpy ride.

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