Our state is in a class by itself — unfortunately.
Anyone who pays attention knows that Illinois is in deep financial trouble. But circumstances have become so severe here that outsiders are including Illinois as a case-study of how to screw up virtually everything.
That's pretty much the bottom line in a lengthy report (http://www.statebudgetcrisis.org/wpcms/wp-content/images/2012-10-12- Illinois-Report-Final-2.pdf) prepared by the State Budget Crisis Task Force, a group headed by national financial heavyweights Paul Volcker and Richard Ravitch. Although it doesn't tell the people of Illinois much that they didn't know, it offers a useful outline of how the state was led into this tar pit by its feckless elected officials and provides some stark warnings about what will be required if, not necessarily when, Illinois is to fix itself.
It's also a bracing reminder of how those who do not play by this state's peculiar political rules view those who do.
The report summary alone will send chills down the spine of those who consider fiscal prudence to be one of the state's primary duties.
"Illinois' budget is not fiscally sustainable. ... Illinois has the worst unfunded pension liability of any state. ... Illinois' debt is crowding out the budget. ... Illinois has compounded its challenges with poor fiscal management and opaque budgeting. ... Budget gimmicks became a standard practice. ... Narrow, eroding tax bases have contributed to Illinois' fiscal difficulties. ... Illinois' past fiscal choices and future threats challenge the state's ability to meets its population's basic needs. ... the state needs to change how it does business."
That's an impressive litany of failings, many of which occurred since 2000. Indeed, it would have to be because the report notes that "Illinois is, after all, a wealthy state, with a diverse economy and the third-largest metropolitan area in the country."
This report is an eye-opener, but not for the problem it cites. Illinoisans know we're in trouble. It's useful because it's comprehensive examination of all the political malpractice that created a disaster of monumental proportions in a relatively short time.
Of course, our legislators who are running for re-election don't want to hear about it — at least not until after Nov. 6. They're running for office and from fiscal reality. This report explains why the people of Illinois can't run far enough to escape the consequences of our leaders' bad choices.