Sometimes it’s really hard to understand why certain events get heavy national press coverage while others which are arguably at least as significant and serious get little if any notice. This is one of them. Scott Walker, who solved a $3 billion projected deficit in Wisconsin, is a media and leftist (but I repeat myself) arch-villain because much of the balancing was done by adjusting public-sector employee contributions towards health and pension benefits to more closely but still more generously resemble what’s seen in the private sector, and by reducing public-sector employees’ ability to restore them to their formerly out-of-control levels through collective bargaining. Ditto for John Kasich in Ohio, where the projected deficit was $8 billion.
Meanwhile, the state of Illinois defers billions of dollars of payments to vendors by four or more months because, despite 67% and 46% increases in personal and business income taxes, respectively, it still doesn’t have the money to come even close to staying current. Yet virtually all we’ve see from the national press on the problem is one Associated Press story conveniently filed on a Saturday. Here are key paragraphs from the report by Christopher Wills (bolds are mine throughout this post):
Deadbeat state: Ill. owes billions in unpaid bills
Drowning in deficits, Illinois has turned to a deliberate policy of not paying billions of dollars in bills for months at a time, creating a cycle of hardship and sacrifice for residents and businesses helping the state carry out some of the most important government tasks.
Once intended as a stop-gap, the months-long delay in paying bills has now become a regular part of the state’s budget management, forcing businesses and charity groups to borrow money, cut jobs and services and take on personal debt. Getting paid can be such a confusing process that it requires begging the state for money and sometimes has more to do with knowing the right people than being next in line.
As of early last month, the state owed on 166,000 unpaid bills worth a breathtaking $5 billion, with nearly half of that amount more than a month overdue and hundreds of bills dating back to 2010, according to an Associated Press analysis of state documents.
The true backlog is even higher because some bills have not yet been approved for payment and officially added to the tally. This includes the Illinois health care agency, which says it is sitting on about $1.9 billion in bills from Medicaid providers because there’s no money to pay it.
… The unpaid bills range from a few pennies to nearly $25 million. In early September, for example, Illinois owed $55,000 to a small-town farm supply business for gasoline, $1,000 to a charity that provides used clothing to the poor, $810,000 to a child-nutrition program.
… Illinois leaders join in bemoaning the crisis but haven’t been able to find a solution.
“God, how much more can our people take?” said Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, a veteran politician responsible for trying to pay a seemingly infinite stack of bills with the finite amount of money approved by legislators and the governor.
(Former Governor Rod) Blagojevich’s replacement, Democrat Pat Quinn, raised income taxes and trimmed spending, but that money was gobbled up by other needs, primarily rising pension costs. Under budget agreements with legislative leaders, all Democrats, bills continued to go unpaid.
As noted above, the tax increases were incredibly steep — yet nothing changed with vendor payments. Ohio and Wisconsin balanced their budgets without raising taxes — and their governors are really, really, really bad guys.
As a reminder, the people of Illinois were specifically told that the vendor payment problem would be solved by the latest round of tax increases:
“We have just come through the worst economic crisis in our lifetime…and we have not paid our bills,” Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, told lawmakers shortly before the vote. “We are going to have to cut…even with this tax. We’re going to have to spend less money then we have in the last two years. And it’s going to be tough. But we are going to have our bills paid.”
Obviously, that hasn’t happened, and there is no realistic prospect that it will happen. Givebacks subsequent to the tax increases by the state’s public-sector unions were almost non-existent. At the time of the tax increases, Governor Quinn thought he could prove that his state’s way of “fixing” things would be as effective as Wisconsin and Ohio and would cause less pain for everyone. How’s that workin’ out for you now, buddy?
Demonstrating its usual lack of class, the wire service which so often fails to identify a person’s political party affiliation in circumstances involving Democrats involved in crime or scandal chose to run an accompanying photo not of Quinn but of Ms. Topinka, and made sure to tag her as a Republican — as if the state’s comptroller has power to do anything about the decrepit situation the state’s Democratic governor and legislature have handed her.
Do you think the mess in Illinois would remain so relatively invisible if the state decided to wait 90 days or so to pay its employees so that vendors and employee alike would be on an equal footing? How is seriously delaying payments to independent contractors, consultants, small and large businesses, and small or large not-for-profits any different? It’s really not. So why is it getting so little attention? Why should I not believe that the reason has a lot to do with Quinn’s and the legislative majority’s political party, and the fact that tax-and-spend is really working out to be tax-and-bankrupt?
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.