EDITORIAL: For Illinois, slow spiral to failure

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Wisconsin may be divided, but itís not broke.

ACROSS THE STATE LINE, the insanity continues.

Not long ago it was Gov. Pat Quinn, whose election continues to be a mystery as he angers one constituency after another, granting hefty raises to his administrative employees. He did it as he and the Democrat-controlled legislature jacked up taxes on individuals and businesses, and as the state reneged on negotiated raises for thousands of state employees.

Now, according to The Associated Press, Treasurer Dan Rutherford has handed out raises averaging 16 percent to 19 of his employees. Not to be outdone, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka awarded 56 staffers raises ranging between 3 to 15 percent.

That all comes on the heels of Quinnís threat to lay off 1,900 state employees and close several critical state facilities.

QUESTION: WHY WOULD Illinois need both a treasurer and a comptroller? Oh, well. Never mind.

Back to the subject at hand. The ill-timed raises demonstrate the obvious. Illinoisí leadership ó pardon our gross misuse of that word ó clearly is constitutionally incapable of exercising sound fiscal judgment.

Who knows? Maybe their rationale is to rake in a few final bucks before the stateís entire fiscal house of cards collapses. Chances are itís too late to save this spend-happy state anyway.

A report this week from the Civic Federation, a private watchdog group, puts the red ink in Illinois at $8.3 billion by the end of the fiscal year in June 2012. Even raising individual income taxes by 67 percent and business taxes by 50 percent is not enough. The higher revenue, the report found, simply disappeared in a storm of exploding pension and debt service costs.

Failure for years to deal with known problems landed Illinois in this fix. The only solution, eventually, may be the humiliation of bankruptcy. Really.

AS REGULAR READERS of this space know, the Beloit Daily News had issues with some of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walkerís actions and even more with the heavy-handed way in which he refused to listen to any other voices. That approach ó which even Walker now says could have been better ó contributed powerfully to todayís thoroughly polarized, poisoned political environment.

Still, contrast Wisconsinís budget situation with that of Illinois. It hasnít been pretty, but Walkerís policies undeniably have this stateís fiscal prospects looking much brighter than Illinois.

It is important now to mend fences, ease divisions, preserve critical services ó think: Beloitís alarming proposed public safety cuts ó and focus maximum attention on growing jobs.

But letís give credit where it is due.

Quinn or Walker? Thatís a no-contest.

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