The Illinois Legislature closed its session on May 31 with its usual mutual congratulations among legislators on what a great job they did this year.
The problem is they didn't do anything.
Oh sure, they came to an agreement on a concealed carry law that looks like it was slapped together over the Thai curry wings at Buffalo Wild Wings after the fifth Leinenkugel. They made proclamations designating certain weeks and months whatever week or month they've been for years. But what did they really do?
Illinois was forecast as being the 13th state to legalize same-sex marriages. Oops, sorry, maybe next time.
Did they address the state's financial crisis? Only if, by saying "address," you mean passing a budget for the next fiscal year that includes $2,000,000,000 more than was spent this year.
The "temporary" 67 percent tax increase pushed through at the end of the 2011 executive session went completely unmentioned. It's set to expire shortly, but with no legislation in place, it's doubtful that it's going to be changing anytime soon.
Pension reform – probably the biggest problem facing an already flagging state economy – was debated, inflated, deflated, abated and prorated in discussions in both houses, but nothing was done about it. If you think that's not a problem, you should realize that it's costing the state millions a day. Current estimates of the dollar figure caused by the legislature's inability to act on the issue amounts to about $38,500. Not a bad figure until you realize that's per taxpayer.
Think about that for a moment. Because the Illinois legislature failed to address the issue of pension reform, your personal burden to the problem is $38,500; a figure equivalent to more than 80 percent of the average annual paycheck in Illinois before taxes. Meanwhile, legislators take home a paycheck of more than $68,000 plus a $111 per diem expense account. That's before any speaking fees or "special interest" fees that – of course – they're not accepting.
All of that for doing nothing this year.
Oh, wait; they did do one thing at the last moment. They signed legislation that will later this year allow "fracking" for oil throughout the state, including near the entrance of Starved Rock State Park. Gov. Pat Quinn says this will bring thousands of jobs to Illinois. It has already created 50 job openings.
Of course those 50 jobs are for experts to advise the state on what regulations should be placed on the industry. And yes, those 50 jobs are state jobs, meaning you're paying for them too.
It is with no surprise that Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford announced June 4 that the state's financial rating has fallen again. In fact, Illinois has the lowest credit rating of all 50 states. ALL 50 states; even Arkansas is less of a credit risk.
Think about that when your tax bill comes in this year. Also, please drop off your $38,500 at the door.
Putnam County Record Staff Writer Ken Schroeder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.