Leadership makes all the difference
Illinois' neighbors are doing considerably better than Illinois.
Depressed about Illinois' status as a failed financial state? Looking for a reason to feel even worse?
Here's one. Wisconsin's nonpartisan legislative fiscal bureau announced last week that the state's budget surplus is expected to grow to $484 million. That's $137 million higher than Gov. Scott Walker's November estimate.
Two years ago, when Walker first took office, he confronted a $3 billion budget shortfall.
Then, there is Indiana, where new Gov. Mike Pence just took office. Pence succeeded Mitch Daniels, now the president of Purdue University. Like Walker, Daniels also confronted a state facing serious financial problems, which he addressed by, among other things, taking steps to bring spending in line with revenues and to attract jobs by improving the state's business climate. Over his eight years in office, Daniels turned the former sow's ear that was Indiana into a silk purse.
Indeed, Indiana's finances are so strong that Pence is asking the Legislature to approve a cut in the state's income tax.
One more thing: the public pension systems in both Indiana and Wisconsin are in fine shape.
Illinois, in contrast, faces serious financial problems on every front — grossly underfunded public pension systems, roughly $9 billion in unpaid bills and insufficient revenue to finance core state programs.
The changed fortunes of Wisconsin and Indiana, of course, demonstrate that there is hope for Illinois. Voters in those two states chose short-term pain for long-term gain by electing serious, determined leaders who were willing to make tough decisions that fix problems. Those are examples Illinoisans ought to take to heart.