Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has asked for a bailout from the federal government to help with the state’s debt and high spending, saying that the current pandemic has put them in a financial crisis. To be blunt, that’s simply not true.Yes, every level of government has been affected by the pandemic and the lock downs around the nation. Tax revenue is down because economic activity has dropped dramatically and more people are without jobs-and paying no taxes-than anytime since the Great Depression. Spending has increased as more people have needed government safety nets and the governments have also tried to step in to help people suddenly without jobs and faltering businesses that are having to lay off or furlough workers. But that is not Illinois’ problem. Not in the slightest.
Illinois state government and politicians have been irresponsible and incompetent for far longer than the last few months. Illinois is 49th out of 50 states in last year’s ranking of fiscal health of state governments and have perennially ranked among the worst in the country. It got so bad that five years ago, Illinois actually started issuing IOU’s because it couldn’t pay its bills, despite having taxes among the highest in the nation. Even the state lottery, which is run only to bring in money for the state, couldn’t pay out winnings and issued IOUs to winners and as a result drove down lottery sales.
Illinois was ranked as the highest taxed state in the country in 2019 by Kiplingers. But yet they spend so much that they still can’t pay their bills. Illinois’ budget problems aren’t due to the pandemic, but to years and years of profligate spending and handouts to special interest groups from government coffers.
Even if you can get past the ridiculous idea of one government asking another government for money, and all the government bodies just passing around taxpayer money, it’s hard to get past the mental gymnastics that it must take to ask for money and say its because of a pandemic when years earlier you were giving out IOUs instead of paying your obligations.
Is it just arrogance to think that you are entitled to have someone else bail you out because you can’t control your own bad habits?