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Doug Finke

STATEHOUSE INSIDER: Illinois’ finances not the worst? Believe it or not

New Jersey edges Land of Lincoln for 50th place

New Jersey edges Land of Lincoln for 50th place

The results are in, and, defying all odds, Illinois isn’t the worst.

And considering it involves state finances, it is even more amazing.

The non-partisan Truth in Accounting released its annual Financial State of the States report that reviews the finances of all 50 states. The good news is that Illinois was not the worst. That distinction belongs to New Jersey.

The bad news is that Illinois ranked 49th, which made it one of nine states to earn an “F” ranking from the organization. Worse, it was a notch lower than last year, which reflected further deterioration in state finances.

TIA ranks states by how much each taxpayer would have to pay to make the state debt-free. For Illinois, that amount was pegged at $50,400. For the worst state, New Jersey, it was $67,200. So by comparison, Illinois represents a bargain for taxpayers.

If misery loves company, Illinois has a lot of love going for it. Only nine states were in positive territory, in the sense they had surpluses. If your desire is to live in a state with really good government finances, your top three choices are Alaska, North Dakota and Wyoming. They were the only three to receive an “A” grade.

So the trade-off is living in the middle of nowhere to get a fiscally healthy state government.

Big bunch ready to depart

When the House voted in July to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the state budget, it was the final step in ending the 2-plus years of budget impasse.

Eleven Republicans voted in favor of the override motion.

With the announcement last week by Rep. Reggie Phillps of Charleston that he would not run for re-election, six of those Republicans have now said they aren’t running again.

Another Republican, Rep. Bob Pritchard of Hinckley, was absent for the override vote, but he voted in favor of the budget when it first passed the House. He also isn’t running again.

In fairness, Phillips said the vote had nothing to do with his decision and that he was confident he could have won if he’d chosen to run.

Still, that’s a lot of retirements from one small group of lawmakers.

Out of date, in more ways than one

This column mostly shuns federal stuff because the state has more than enough problems to keep everyone occupied.

There are exceptions to every rule, and this is one. U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, wanted to make a point last week that the federal tax code is out of date and needs to be revised. To illustrate his point, literally in this case, he tweeted his prom picture from the 1980s when he was sporting a rather extraordinary mullet. He also had a mustache that frankly gave him a rather sinister look.

Davis’ point was that the tax code is as outdated as his prom look.

Forgetting the political issues involved, several social media commentators gave Davis credit for having the courage to post the picture.

Rushing to run

Given that there are roughly 100 people who say they’re interested in running for attorney general, consider this for a moment.

How many candidates do you think would have lined up had Secretary of State Jesse White decided he wouldn’t run for another term? Would all of the names have fit on a single page of a ballot?

Hello, goodbye

Under the heading of Things You Discover Looking for Other Things: A bill was introduced last week to add an amendment to the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act.

Sponsored by state Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, it provides that “no legislator while serving as a member of the General Assembly shall concurrently serve as the chairperson for a statewide political party.”

Hmmm. Wonder who that might apply to?

Please note, this is likely the last time you will be reading about this bill.