Flipping the calendar to a new year is always a mixed bag. While hope abounds for fresh starts and changed circumstances, there is also the reality that four-fifths or more of all New Year’s resolutions fail to be achieved. Whether this happens because goals are too lofty, lack of discipline and resolve, or just bad luck, the fact remains that January’s early hope and good intentions often lead to disappointment and frustration. Unfortunately, some of these letdowns occur even before we get used to writing the correct year on checks.
Living in Illinois, many already have dialed down their expectations, particularly when it involves state government. Gov. Pat Quinn’s office started off the year with a report dated Jan. 1 that projected a $4.5 billion budget hole exacerbated with more than $16 billion in unpaid state bills by mid-2017. This second number represents three-and-a-half times more than what is unpaid today, and this dire prediction is without addressing unfunded pension liabilities.
Of course, these projections are based on state income tax rates being rolled back next year to pre-2011 levels. The more cynical might believe that the report findings are merely a precursor to building a case for more taxes or possible shifts of state obligations to other entities. Either way the answer seems to be increased taxes. What is not reflected are expenditure cuts as the operating budget and total expenditure projections continue an upward climb.
The 98th General Assembly is due back in Springfield, in joint session, to hear the governor’s “State of the State” message Jan. 29. This address may set the tone for the political agenda for the months ahead, but with primary elections on March 18 and the general election in November, the goal for many officeholders might simply be to gain re-election. During 2013, the General Assembly introduced 8,455 bills and completed action on 1,986. Based on past efforts, we can probably expect another 4,000 or so bills on a variety of subjects in the hopper before the scheduled May adjournment.
To get a better idea of what to expect from Springfield, the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation, in keeping with its goals of community education and interaction with decision makers, has invited local legislators to a panel discussion at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, in meeting rooms B and C of the Naperville Municipal Center. Sens. Michael Connelly, Linda Holmes and Christine Radogno, together with Reps. Jeanne Ives, Stephanie Kifowit, Ron Sandack, and Darlene Senger have indicated they will attend.
Among the topics planned for discussion are the effectiveness of the 2013 pension “fix,” status of the expiring income tax hike, climate for business growth, and the potential for pension cost shifts to local school boards. With varied viewpoints expected from our guests, along with time for questions and interaction with the audience, this should be time well spent.
For early risers, coffee will be served beginning at 8 a.m., leading to more time to informally meet and greet our state leadership.
Bob Fischer is president of the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org