If you don't ask, you don't get.
It's more fun to be around optimists than pessimists, but it's a foolish optimist who can't read the handwriting on the wall.
So while it's interesting, instructive and maybe even enlightening to read that the University of Illinois is requesting a nearly $68 million budget increase for the next fiscal year, it is well worth noting that the chances of that happening aren't slim but none.
In a recent budget briefing, UI Vice President Christopher Pierre acknowledged the challenge with bleak references to the dire state of the state of Illinois. One read "Titanic Ahead," while another proclaimed "Worse News."
What could be worse than the Titanic? Well, climb aboard the ship of state for a brief inspection.
If Illinois was legally eligible to file for bankruptcy, that would be the obvious course. Since it can't, the only alternative is to remain dead in the water, robbing Peter to pay Paul while starving core state functions of funds to pay for skyrocketing costs in public employee pensions and medical care for poor people.
Higher education is just one important area where state legislators appropriate money, but then don't provide the money. It's the same for K-12 funding and paying the bills of state contractors for services rendered. Don't count on getting paid any time soon. If the delays cause cash-flow problems to put you out of business, that's what you get for trusting the state.
Obviously, this kind of financial stress is hard on everyone. What's even more disturbing is that these problems are the result of short-term thinking and profligate spending decisions that were considered unwise at the time they were made.
The question now is whether it's even possible for Illinois to recover its bearings. Naturally, the optimists say it can, that we're not in a death spiral yet. Unfortunately, Illinoisans will have to depend on many of the same people who got us into this mess to get us out of it. That requires even more optimism than UI officials put into their budget request.