Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger has been criss-crossing the state apologizing on behalf of the state.
She said she was sorry to the folks at the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House in East St. Louis. They had to lay off 117 employees.
She said she was sorry to Illinois taxpayers because the Lessie Bates clients may well wind up in nursing homes without the services of those 117 employees. Nursing home care costs taxpayers five times more.
She said she was sorry to the local universities. Students are not getting their tuition grants. Professors are seeking stable employment and leaving.
She regularly says she’s sorry to the state’s vendors. Every day she faces the equivalent of $7,000 in bills with only $100 in checking to cover it. Her real numbers are $7 billion in bills, with another $2 billion pending and long-term pension debt of $110 billion.
Munger is making the apologies, but she’s not the one to blame.
Blame the folks in Springfield who are worried about the legalities of using a spear to catch a catfish, of possessing a flamethrower for home use and of voiding your bladder in the proper place if you’re a transgender teen. Those were state lawmakers’ pressing issues last week instead of passing a 2016 state budget that is 293 days late.
Munger said the state started the year about $5 billion in the hole. Without the restraints of a budget, the state’s spending is mushrooming and we’ll add about $6 billion more in red ink so that we hit the 2017 fiscal year on July 1 with about $11 billion more spent that we have coming in.
No one seems to think that is an emergency. No one knows when it will end.
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan would have us tax our way out of this hole. OK. The current rate is 3.75 percent of your income. To pay all the state’s bills, excluding the $110 billion pension liability, the rate would need to be between 7 and 8 percent of your income. Think an 8 percent income tax rate would drive even more residents and businesses from Illinois, leaving even fewer taxpayers to share those $11 billion in bills?
Munger is the one apologizing, but can you think of someone else you’d rather see be sorry? Maybe on Nov. 8?