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Doug Finke

Report catches up with reality

Yes, state has financial woes; what’s needed are solutions

Yes, state has financial woes; what’s needed are solutions

Stop the presses! Illinois has financial problems.

That was the conclusion of a report released late last month by the State Budget Crisis Task Force. With all due respect to the report’s authors, anyone in Illinois who doesn’t by now know that the state is facing serious and ongoing financial problems is utterly detached from reality. Another report isn’t likely to change that.

Then again, maybe there’s some value in the nag factor, reminding people the problem is still there.

You’d be hard pressed to find a candidate for state office who doesn’t acknowledge that the state has severe financial problems. You’d probably be equally hard pressed to find a candidate willing to spell out in detail how those problems should be solved. Getting them to cast a vote that will solve those problems is even more difficult.

As House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, told ABC 7 news in Chicago: “There’s just too many people in the Legislature that don’t want to do heavy lifting of [the] Legislature. When it comes time to cast a difficult vote, they’re in the bathroom somewhere.”

What the state probably needs right now is not another study saying there are financial problems, but some experts in getting people off their duffs to do something about it. Now that might accomplish something.

Reform can wait

Drat, it looks like we’ll have to wait even longer for the grass-roots effort that’s going to put pension reform over the top in Illinois.

Gov. Pat Quinn said that the new target date for rolling out the extravaganza is sometime after the election.

Since Aug. 16, Quinn has been talking about this thing like it’s just around the corner. That was the day of the special legislative session on pension reform during which the General Assembly did exactly nothing on pension reform.

At the end of that day, Quinn said he would be taking pension reform directly to the people to finally force lawmakers into confronting needed changes.

Assuming the grass-roots campaign actually does begin after the election, Quinn’s going to have his work cut out for him. The Legislature is scheduled to return for the start of the veto session Nov. 27. That gives Quinn only a couple of weeks to build that unrelenting pressure on legislators.

Of course, that’s if lawmakers intend to tackle pension reform during the veto session. They could wait until early January.

With no more elections facing them, those lawmakers may finally be ready to deal with pension changes.

Then again, maybe the grass-roots campaign has already begun.

Close a university?

Quinn’s assistant budget director, Abdon Pallasch, told the Daily Herald’s editorial board that there could be dire consequences if the state doesn’t get contract concessions from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and make changes to pensions.

“The alternative is we, you know, close a few prisons or universities, I guess,” the paper quoted Pallasch as saying.

He then said he’s not threatening to close prisons or universities, but, “I’m just saying, let your imagination run wild with what we’d have to do.”

Yes, it would take some wild imagination to think Quinn would be successful in closing down a university. He’s had enough difficulty shutting down prisons and mental health facilities. Does anyone seriously think he could get away with closing a university that not only employs hundreds of people, but attracts thousands of students who also boost the local economy?

Quinn’s already got a reputation for making dire threats and backing off. It might help his cause to at least keep them in the realm of reality.

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