By: Mark Glennon*
Illinois will have to cut its budget if the federal government doesn’t give it money. That’s basically what Governor JB Pritzker said Tuesday.
It’s pretty easy to imagine how many Illinoisans would respond: “So? Cut the budget. Isn’t there supposed to be shared sacrifice? We are getting hammered by pay cuts, furloughs and taxes.”
As the Chicago Sun-Times summarized Pritzker’s Tuesday comments, “[H]is cabinet directors have been advised to prepare for a ‘nightmare scenario’ that includes budget cuts of at least 5% for the current fiscal year and a 10% cut for the next one if Washington doesn’t help out.”
But it’s partly because Illinois has shown no willingness to cut even a dime that Washington has been unable to agree on a federal relief package for states. Lawmakers from well-run states, many of which can get by with no federal help at all, are very reluctant to shell out their constituent’s money for what they see as a bailout for states like Illinois.
Many of those other states “are slashing funding for everything from education and health care to orchestra subsidies,” as a recent New York Times article put it.
But Illinois has put no skin in the game. Its current budget provides for a spending increase of 7.5% over last year, even though the state’s population is shrinking. It anticipates revenue that will be about $5 billion – over 8% of the budget — short of what it will spend, hoping the federal government covers the difference.
Serious effort to get sympathy from Washington would require serious reforms. You’d think Pritzker would have at least made token cuts that he would have tried to pass off as big sacrifices.
Pritzker would do well to listen to the Problem Solvers Caucus. That’s a bipartisan, centrist group in Congress trying to tone down the political rhetoric on both sides and get a compromise federal relief bill passed.
“This back-and-forth, us-versus-them, tit-for-tat, it doesn’t help my community, it doesn’t help people in my district who need it.” said Rep. Kendra Horn, a caucus member and a Democrat. “We’ve got to get something across the finish line now.”
Instead, Pritzker added his usual partisan jabs to his Tuesday message: “Until Republicans in Washington decide otherwise, middle class, working class and poor families across our state and across the nation will likely suffer from cuts to public safety, education, human services and environmental safety — and the potential layoffs will make the economic recession worse,” Pritzker said.
That’s not helping.
Our view on federal aid remains what we wrote in RealClear Politics earlier this year. Any federal relief for states that haven’t managed their affairs properly should be conditioned on reforms.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.