Monday, November 24, 2008


by John Bambenek and Adam Andrzejewski

At an education policy conference, from the podium an Illinois state representative says, “we need your help…we [elected state reps] are clueless!”

Springfield needs our help now, the clarion call cannot be more clear…$2 billion of unpaid bills; worst pension debt in the nation; a total state debt of $110 billion; years of functionally unbalanced budgets; a Governor instituted, multi-million dollar, unconstitutional extension of the FamilyCare health insurance program; an Auditor General report stating that the state agencies can’t even quantify the number of state programs they run or how much they spend; $2 billion of 2008 undocumented Democratic member initiatives with the accompanying Judicial Watch lawsuit; increasing their own legislative pay 16.9% in the last 16 months!

Despite having record incoming revenues, Springfield is in economic chaos. And yet, Springfield is threatening us with unprecedented across the board tax increases and in a time of severe economic downturn.

The people in Illinois have an obligation to lead. Let’s show the leaders that the citizens can produce a state budget that cuts total state spending 10% while not cutting any monies from education, and health and human services, while fully funding the pensions. Is it possible to write a state budget that eliminates wasteful spending? Is it possible to write a state budget that serves the people of Illinois and also remains within economic parameters? Can we write a budget that alleviates the severe tax strain on hard-working Illinois families?

Let’s write a state budget that does not require an increase in the state income tax! All the conversation in Springfield always centers on additional revenue sources. Let’s create the focus on the other side of the balance sheet, the spending side. And, there certainly should be the fiscal room for discussion- According to John Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute on Public Affairs with Jeff Berkowitz, while the population of Illinois since 1990 has increased 12%, the state spending has increased 44% on an inflation adjusted basis!

Elected leaders say the only way to solve our problems is a draconian across-the-board tax increase or catastrophic cuts to essential human services. Let's show them it’s possible to craft a budget that makes sense for all of Illinois. Consider this an open invitation for citizen involvement. We live the problems of Illinois, we think about solutions, and this is our opportunity to be a part of the process. Use your personal knowledge and experience to create a Citizen Budget that we can take to Springfield. Let’s fight off the attempt to increase our personal income taxes.

In the current media milieu, fiscal conservatives are often portrayed as a cranky bunch always complaining about something. The reality is that conservatives are innovative, entrepreneurial and problem solvers. The Illinois donkey’s and elephant’s have all but said they cannot solve the budget problem of their own creation. Fiscal conservatives ought to take this opportunity to reclaim their position of crafting policy to foster the spirit of American excellence before others craft policies to squelch it.

Consider this exercise the open source problem solving equivalent to establishing Wikipedia for Illinois state government. Let’s use our energy constructively… and solve an impossible problem. Let’s show the political class that the impossible is achievable.
Now… Let’s get to work!

To help contact either John Bambenek at or Adam Andrzejewski at

State budget in a single PDF:

Capital budget:

About the backlog:

About the $2 bil lawsuit:


steve schnorf 1:55 PM  

Well, a rough calculations is to hit that 10% number without touching human and health services or education, you're going to have to cut the remaining budget by about 30%.

Doable perhaps, but don't think you're going to accomplish it without closing some more state parks and prisons.

JB Powers 2:06 PM  

Yeah John,

How are we supposed to keep our crazed early retirement program and cut the budget at the same time?

Next thing you know, state employees will be expected to work past age 52 and there will be chaos on the streets.


Anonymous,  4:06 PM  


I'm a 56 year old state employee. Along with many others, I will be working well into my 60s. Why don't you grow up and stop with the cheap shots.

JB Powers 10:23 AM  


Because the future of the state depends on it.

I don't think you will get a lot of sympathy from the general taxpayers for being expected to work to get paid.

The days of defined benefits pensions are over. The sooner the State gets away from its ludicrous pension plans, the better the chance for financial sanity.


steve schnorf 11:50 PM  

JB, the action you propose will substantially increase the state's spending for the next 15 years or so, so that 30% is now maybe 35%.

Once again, perhaps doable, but I don't see anyone making specific suggestions to reduce the state's annual new GRF liabilities by $2.6B. Of course, before you do any cutting, you'll have to add in the $500M Medicaid is under approped this year, so the payment cycle won't grow by another 20 days next year. Remember, we're not going to touch health, human services, or education in this little exercise.

With those things off the table, the big cuts will have to come in Corrections, Natural Resources, Ag, State Police, etc (is Aging a human service; if not, it would have to be a big target). Without the exact numbers in front of me any longer, I'm sure that abolishing the 50 smallest agencies, boards, and commissions in state government wouldn't save one billion dollars, much less 2 1/2.

I know it sounds simple to you guys out there, but if it were simple, wouldn't there somewhere be a least one elected official in the General Assembly willing to say, here's the cuts we can make to do this, if for no other reason than to get you guys off his a__?

JB Powers 2:58 PM  

My bad,

The early retirement program is untouchable because Steve says it is without ever backing up his rhetoric with any numbers. We must allow state workers to retire at age 48, and receive pension and health care benefits for the rest of their lives.

We also must hire contractors to replace the state workers who take early retirement, in some cases the same person who took the retirement package.

If we can just get enough people into the State retirement program, and hire enough contractors, we can resolve the state budget issues.


steve schnorf 7:35 PM  

JB, if you can calm down for a minute and get a grip, what "early retirement" program are you talking about?

I was referring to your comments regarding the current defined benefit program, and I gave you credit for understanding the math. A mistake?

CTA Bus Status

There was an error in this gadget
There was an error in this gadget

  © Blogger template The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP