The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Forever Red in Illinois

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


As the Illinois legislature winds up the 2013 session by creating a new $750,000 “Forever Green Illinois Program” (it's really there on pp. 8-9 of the 284-page budget bill) that would fund the “maintenance and beautification of greenery,” including grass, weeds, trees, shrubs, bushes, and plants on state or local government property, elected officials should also consider adopting a new official state song:  "Forever Red; I Want to Be, Forever Red."

Credit for both exposing this wasteful spending and the clever parody of the 1984 song "Forever Young" goes to CAGW's good friend Kristina Rasmussen, executive vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute.  Her blog post today described the new program, which will come out of general funds.  I agree with Kristina that it's easy to keep wasting money when the state increased taxes by 67 percent in 2011.  To get the state's finances under control, legislators should instead be eliminating wasteful spending and certainly not creating new and unnecessary programs.

And the state's finances certainly are abysmal.  As Illinois Policy Institute Vice President of Policy Ted Dabrowski pointed out in his January 30, 2013 blog post, a $500 million bond sale scheduled for that date was delayed because of a drop in lender confidence in the state's credit worthiness.  S&P rated the state's ability to repay its debt as the lowest in the nation, and the January downgrade was the 11th since Governor Pat Quinn took office in 2009.

As Ted noted, one of the rating agencies' biggest concerns is the pension debt for state employees.  While the official shortfall is $95 billion, that number would be more than $200 billion under a new methodology being proposed by Moody's.  The state has the fifth highest debt per capita in the nation, and not surprisingly, is also in the top five in terms of the highest amount of total debt.

As the state heads deeper into the red, legislators still see green.

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