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Penchant for delay is local, too

I put off unpleasant things – for instance, dental work that I likely need.

I'm sure you do the same. Our elected representatives are no different.

In Washington, we keep seeing our politicians kick the can down the road. The solutions are pretty obvious: We must cut popular programs such as Social Security, Medicare and defense. And if we want to keep these programs in some form, we'll probably have to raise taxes.

Rhetoric aside, most of us like big government we don't have to pay for. Our elected representatives reflect this desire.

In Springfield, we see the same thing. Illinois has a $96 billion unfunded pension liability that grows by millions every day. But our state government keeps putting off solving this problem. Again, the solution is clear: Some mix of benefit cuts and increase in worker contributions is needed.

In this case, the state already has taken some action, increasing income tax rates. Nearly all of that revenue went toward covering pensions, effectively squeezing all other state services. But state leaders have much more to do.

This political penchant for delay is not just some far-away curse. Just go to the Old Lee County Courthouse.

Starting next year, the Lee County Board will see a $1 million loss in annual revenue because of an expected drop in landfill fees. Much of that money has been going to the county's general fund, which is $8.3 million.

Board members know they'll have to make up that shortfall some way, probably by slashing spending.

In summer 2011, the board majority voted to give $1,000-a-year annual raises to nonunion employees, although some argued for an immediate wage freeze. Members of the majority said they would begin a freeze in December 2012.

When the time came, however, the board followed the example of Washington and Springfield – delay a solution to another day.

The board majority last month supported a union agreement for county clerk's and treasurer's employees that included $1,000 raises in the first and third years of the contract and $750 in the second.

Just a couple of months before, the board approved two new positions for the state's attorney's office.

So when are the spending cuts coming?

As with that dental work, probably not anytime soon.

David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525. 

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