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New year, big challenges

Governor-elect Bruce Rauner says he likes a challenge, and he certainly will get many when he takes charge of Illinois on Jan. 12.

Some positive news for taxpayers will make his job that much harder short term. The state’s temporary income tax rate ended on Jan. 1 as promised, which will mean on average an extra $1,000 in state residents’ pockets this year. But because of poor planning by the legislature and Gov. Pat Quinn, the state’s budget is expected to be about $1.4 billion short.

Rauner no doubt will have to make some harsh choices to handle that shortfall. But if programs and services aren’t cut, lawmakers probably will try to push more costs onto local property taxpayers as they have with education.

Just remember that Rauner inherited this mess from Quinn and the Democrats who have controlled the state for years. They failed to spend wisely in good times, and failed to figure out how to significantly improve the state’s finances despite $25 billion in extra revenue from that temporary tax.

Quinn’s administration continues to compound Illinois’ problems on its way out the door. On Tuesday the state said it wouldn’t meet its self-imposed deadline to issue medical marijuana cultivation licenses by Wednesday. Applicants paid a $25,000 nonrefundable fee just to apply, but they are not getting even the courtesy of an explanation for the delay, or when the decisions will be made.

Quinn’s people have had time to do other things: get his campaign manager a cushy $160,000-a-year job on a public payroll, and pardon 102 people on New Year’s Eve, including three abolitionists from 1843. But a program intended to help sick people? No rush on that.

Jan. 12 can’t get here quickly enough.