The ugliness of Illinois' financial condition is made clear in a chart in the recently published Illinois Report 2013, produced by the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.
Even with continuing budget cuts, even with a long-needed resolution to the public pension problem and even with continuing the "temporary" income tax increase (scheduled to begin to be phased out in 2015), Illinois will have annual budget deficits of about $2 billion for at least the next decade.
If the income tax actually is cut in 2015, the annual budget deficit would soar to more than $7 billion by 2023, according to the UI budget experts.
That's the fiscal problem; here's the political one.
Polling by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University finds overwhelming opposition to making the income tax increase, enacted two years ago, permanent.
Statewide, about 63 percent of Illinoisans either "somewhat oppose" or "strongly oppose" making the tax increase permanent. Only about 29 percent support it.
No demographic sector of Illinoisans — not Chicagoans, not Democrats, not liberals, not the wealthy nor the poor — favor the permanent income tax increase.
Downstaters oppose it by about 66 percent to 23 percent. College-educated are against it by about 56 percent to 35 percent, Democrats by 54 percent to 39 percent.
Democrats, who control the Legislature and the governor's office and who exclusively enacted the tax increase two years ago, have a real dilemma on their hands. Even their base opposes continuing the current income tax rate of 5 percent for individuals and 7 percent for corporations.
That's why more and more Democrats, like Rep. Naomi Jakobsson of Urbana and Sen. Mike Frerichs of Champaign, will be promoting a progressive income tax that would revise the state's taxing system while bringing in more revenue.
Worse than Unofficial. Lovers of Ireland and St. Patrick who were upset about last week's decadent Unofficial St. Patrick's Day in Champaign-Urbana would have been even more indignant 100 years ago when the "public speaking department" at Champaign High School allegedly scheduled a debate on the question, "Resolved, That St. Patrick would have made a better hod carrier than a bricklayer."
Father W.E. Frawley of Holy Cross Church was so angry that he took the matter to Champaign school officials.
"Pupils in high school should be given an instructive reverence for things that are sacred," he said. "If Irishmen had more gumption, questions of that type would never have been brought up."
School Superintendent W.W. Earnest replied, according to the Champaign Daily Gazette, that the debate topic was the work of a youthful mind and that it had not been approved by school officials. Finally, he said, the debate would not be held.
Frerichs money. Frerichs, who is considering running for statewide office in 2014, held his first big fundraiser Monday evening in Chicago. It will be some time before final numbers are in, but preliminary figures show it raised at least $9,000.
"A lot of friends came out and were supportive," Frerichs said Tuesday. "A number of people drove up from Champaign. I was certainly appreciative of that."
Another major fundraiser will be next week in Springfield, he said, with smaller events coming later.
Frerichs, considered a possible candidate for state treasurer, Monday reported getting four major contributions: $5,000 from Champaign developer Peter Fox, $2,000 from the electric and gas utility Ameren Illinois, and $1,000 each from wind farm developer Invenergy Illinois and the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois. At his last quarterly report, for the period ending Dec. 31, Frerichs had about $375,000 on hand and has collected several thousand more since.
NRA on concealed-carry. Todd Vandermyde, the Springfield lobbyist for the Illinois State Rifle Association, indicated earlier this week in a column he wrote to gun rights supporters that "we are ahead" in the statewide concealed-carry issue.
But that doesn't mean he was happy with last week's debate on a concealed-carry bill, particularly with competing provisions governing gun controls on college and university campuses.
"During the debate on carry amendments," Vandermyde wrote, "we saw Colleges and others try to make it impossible to carry in public, but then we also saw 68 ... votes for our shall-issue, preemptive carry amendment."
An amendment sponsored by Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, would have allowed colleges and universities to establish their own gun regulations "on or in close proximity to their campuses, grounds and other property, including but not limited to sidewalks, commons, and highways." That amendment was defeated.
Meanwhile, several key provisions favored by the state rifle association were approved. Among them that a "community college, college, or university may prohibit the carrying of a firearm on its campus." It did not include the more expansive language contained in the Jakobsson proposal.
Vandermyde said the House votes last week showed "we have enough hardcore votes to stop final passage of a bad bill."
Gun rights advocates were expected to flood Springfield today for their annual "lobby day."
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.