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Fixing Illinois finances may cause local pain

The taxpayers of Illinois understand Alan Dunstan’s pain.

Dunstan, the Madison County Board chairman, is fretting about plans to cut or eliminate local government’s share of the state income tax. “We know the state has to balance their budgets. We have concerns that they will balance it on local budgets.” Those sentiments are shared by many local leaders.

But while the taxpayers understand it, they frankly don’t have a lot of sympathy for it.

For years the state especially and local governments also have been balancing their budgets on the backs of taxpayers. Instead of living within their means, they raised taxes and fees and, in the case of the state, just let the debt rack up to be paid at some future date. Well, with the election of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, the future has arrived.

Dunstan said Madison County and other local governments cut their spending during the recession. “Don’t make us make additional cuts when we didn’t cause the problems at the state level.”

It may not be fair to expect local governments to do more because the state didn’t do enough before now, but it may be necessary. Frankly, taxpayers are focused on their bottom line. Whoever’s doing the taxing, it all comes out of the taxpayers’ pocket.

It’s a shame it has taken so long for the state to face up to its fiscal failings. But if Democrats like Dunstan had insisted on financial accountability back when Democrats controlled the governor’s office as well as the state House and Senate, local governments probably wouldn’t be facing this harsh fiscal predicament.