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Illinois Budget News: May 17

Another Monday and another great collection of editorials and news clips from the weekend and today.

To start, we would like to quote the enitre editorial from the Chicago Tribune this morning, "Springfield's lost boys", but we'll start with the opening paragraph. The full piece is a must read and calls on lawmakers to cut retirement benefits for today's public employees to give the state an instant $2 billion-plus.

The real Illinois fiasco isn't that legislators have failed to pass a budget. The real fiasco is that they've even considered Gov. Pat Quinn's latest pipe dream for this state to borrow its way to solvency. Quinn keeps demanding a budget that puts children first. That's fine -- although burying our kids beneath still more billions of dollars in Illinois debt obligations seems a cruel way to do it.

The Tribune explores the impact and consequences of trying to meet the $3.8 billion financial obligation to retired state employees this fiscal year. Pick your Poison as they title it:

All of the options on the table remain unpalatable. They could borrow, but taxpayers would be stuck covering hundreds of millions in interest. They could skip, but the pension system would lose billions in investment. They could delay until after the election, but that only puts off the problem. Or they could cut the budget elsewhere, but that's unlikely given the size of the payment.

As we pointed out last week, the impact of the state's budget crisis is hitting home. The Chicago Sn-Times emphasized that point in its Sunday editorial, Legislature's failure hitting home already:

All the while the state Legislature refuses to put Illinois on a sane budgetary path, state services are breaking down."

The pension system goes beyond the state level and is becoming a growing problem for municipalities across the state. Accoridng to the Daily Herald, "Pension recipients and lawmakers hotly debated the topic in St. Charles Friday at a forum of the Illinois Public Pension Funds Association, which represents police and fire pension funds." Springfield Journal Register got involved with its editorial, Pass a pension fix for police, firefighters.

A great analogy from Rhonda Present in the Huffington Post, A Budget That a Mother Could Love:

What's stinkier than a poopy diaper, bigger than a pile of laundry, deeper than a sink full of dirty dishes? It's the Illinois budget mess and it's growing by the minute.

Illinois hasn't passed a budget and the state's current shortfall for FY2011 is $14 billion. Long term, Illinois's total unfunded debt is more than $130 billion. For lawmakers, it almost seems like a who cares as they are poised to set a record for meeting the fewest number of days in two decades (~45 days).

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