Editorials

Building a bridge where the destination is reelection

Illinois state lawmakers want a big infrastructure spending plan before the 2018 elections. They just need to figure out who to tax for it.
Illinois state lawmakers want a big infrastructure spending plan before the 2018 elections. They just need to figure out who to tax for it. snagy@bnd.com

Apparently we owe you an apology, gentle readers: We’ve been lax in pointing out just how dire our state’s financial situation is.

That’s the likely explanation for most of our state lawmakers thinking now is the time for a spending spree on roads and other infrastructure.

Well, there could be another explanation for their cluelessness or lack of concern. There’s an election coming up Nov. 6, 2018.

“When the campaigns start, spring, summer, fall, the primary and general election campaigns are underway, politicians can hold up the example of the capital bill as something they did for their home district,” said Andrew Theising, associate professor of political science at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

So bear with us as we state what should by now be obvious: Illinois is a fiscal mess. We just borrowed $6 billion to pay down a chunk of our $16.6 billion in overdue bills. We have $130 billion in potential pension debt that we can’t cover. We just took away $1,124 from each Illinois household as an income tax hike.

Government should develop infrastructure when there are sound economic reasons, such as the mix of private and federal funds financing the Merchants Bridge replacement to eliminate the St. Louis railroad bottleneck. But for a state to spend big when that state is in big debt is beyond irresponsible.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, gets it.

“If you’re having a hard time paying your light bill, you don’t build the two-car garage on your house,” McCarter said.

Right. Add to that the fact that we just voted to lock away highway funds from the duplicitous state lawmakers. How about giving those funds a chance to build up and then spending what we have, rather than creating an even bigger pile of debt and figuring out on which taxpayer subset we will drop the pain.

You don’t figure out a new revenue stream so you can have a photo op and pretend like you are the reason for the new highway. Well, you do if you are an Illinois state lawmaker.

But you shouldn’t.

  Comments