The downward spiral of diminished returns.


– By Lee R. Talley. Lee is a retired teacher from Tinley Park and a welcome contributor to this site.

“I don’t think this is going to work out.  I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to let you go.”

That’s my assessment of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s job performance so far.  I base this on his proposed austerity budget which cuts funding to many vital programs and social services.  It’s “trickle-down economics” repackaged (yet again) and wrapped with a shiny red bow.    

From listening to his words and watching his actions, I firmly believe Gov. Rauner lacks the understanding as to how government works and how it’s supposed to serve its citizens.  If he thinks he can apply his private industry management and financial skills to running public governmental programs that affect people’s lives, well,…he needs to think again.   What we have is a person with a huge ego who thought it would be fun to be governor, being the chief executive of a state as if it were a hobby.  Governor, be advised, governing is a lot different than campaigning.  Now you’re inside the house instead of being on the outside throwing rocks at the windows.

Last week as I addressed the Tinley Park Village Board about the continued escalation of my property taxes when one trustee dropped the bomb.  “Expect a sizable tax increase if the governor’s budget is realized.”   The state is cutting $5 million in funding to the village and that the residents are going to have to make up the shortfall.  Two days later it was reported that Will County ($5 million), Summitt Hill Elementary School District 161 ($4 million), and Lincoln-Way High School District 210 ($5 million) will also be losing funding.  Throw in the other seven taxing bodies ($1 million+) and it totals over $20 million.

“Whoosh!!!”  No, that’s no the Nike logo passing by.  That’s the sound of my property tax bill soaring even higher.  Gov. Rauner did say he was going to reduce pensions one way or another.  Don’t worry, it’s coming to your town too.  Forget Land of Lincoln.  The new state motto should be:  “The 99% sacrifice and the 1% share.”

Rauner has proposed more than $6 billion in cuts to state spending and sharply reducing pension benefits for state workers.  In past month the Illinois Department of Natural Resources sent out “cease and desist” letters to 316 towns, park districts, forest preserves and counties, telling them to stop spending money on projects for which they expect state reimbursement.  My park district (Frankfort Square) is losing a $200,000 grant even though they’ve signed a contract with the state, followed all the rules and filed the paperwork in good faith.  Others who have already completed the work and are awaiting reimbursement, were now told that it won’t be coming.

Sound familar?  “Govenor Shared Sacrifice” is not big on honoring any contracts…with anybody.  Of course, that’s another private industry tactic.  Fortunately, in government there are laws that must be followed, and the courts are none to pleased with those who think they’re above them.  And who is going to want to do business with the state if they know they’re not honoring signed contracts?  Oh, that’s right, the FOR group (Friends of Rauner).

But let’s take a closer look at the economic realities.  How many people will be put out of work because of these budget cuts?  Now take that number and multiply it by the state tax and property tax the average Illinoian pays each year; then subtract that from the state income.  Now add on the costs for all these people on unemployment, public aid, Links cards, Medicaid, and other types of state funded assistance (child care, education, job retraining, etc.).  They don’t have the money spend, thus we put more people out of work.  In reality, it’s a continual downward spiral of tax revenue and increased state spending.

Count on Rauner using “fuzzy math” to say his cuts are working.  When it comes to spending on social programs, he’ll quietly raise the baselines so that less people qualify for assistance from these programs.  The G.W. Bush administration used the same method to manipulate the numbers during his tenure in office.  (Raise the minimum poverty level so it looks like there’s not as many poor people.)

Here’s a heart-breaking example of what these budget cuts will mean for families.

Recently there was a story on the news about an older couple in one of the western suburbs who are fostering three special needs children (ages 22, 19 & 16), all with severe challenges.  Rauner’s budget cuts will force this couple to give up fostering and the children will be placed with the state.

Take these children out of foster care and it will cost the state nearly 7x what they currently pay this couple, who by all accounts are doing a tremendous job of providing a loving environment for them.  The mother has invited “Governor Rauner to come spend one day with us” to see the special care these children need to live and function in society.  Don’t hold your breath.

But what is Rauner going to leave in his wake?  How many more families will be worse off in 2018 than today?  You get the impression that Rauner thinks he, and he alone, has all the answers.  “It is a foolish man who thinks he has a monoply on knowledge.”

He must realize that just cutting the budget (especially without warning) is not going to solve this crisis.  I’m guessing it’s  a power-play of sorts.  Maybe he wants everyone to come back to him, begging, with hat in hand, to ask for their funding.  “Prove to me that you really need this money.”  “Ahhhh, it’s good to be the king!”

It’s an old power tactic.  Get those doing the begging to think you’re doing them a favor by giving them a little of what they were promised and they’ll thank you.  Then it becomes the norm year-after-year.  (Cue the theme from “The Godfather.”)

In dealing with the governor’s proposed budget cuts, Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 Board Member Kevin Molloy summed it up best.  “The most difficult task isn’t the balancing of the (school district’s) budget — it will be trying to guess what might get cut by the State next when it comes to funding.”

13 thoughts on “The downward spiral of diminished returns.

  1. I’m just curious. I know it is early in his term, but what about the chances of impeachment at sometime? What is the process, and is he doing, or threatening to do, anything that might cause a legal reason for impeachment?

  2. Don’t you need something along the lines of a felony for impeachment? Can’t impeach him just because you don’t like with him.

    Funny to hear a union guy talk about the effect of higher taxes. No problem raising them if the $ finds its way to union member coffers though.
    You are correct, can’t run a gov’t like a business, but there are a a lot of business rules that do apply, such as being efficient at what you do, doing it a reasonable cost, no featherbedding, and realizing you can’t be everything to everybody.
    Have to believe that the proposed budget is the old tactic of shooting for the moon on the opening shot with the expectations much closer to the reality of what will get passed. It is startling to see what lousy shape this state is in financially though.
    Doesn’t anybody ever ask why one of the highest taxing states in the country is so broke and just where in the hell the $ is going? Oh wait, I think I know.

    1. I love your choice of words. Pay for teaching is “$ finding its way to union members coffers.” Beth Purvis gets a quarter million a year as an ed advisor to the governor and it is business “efficient.”

    2. Under his proposed cuts to pensions earned and paid into by teachers, caregivers, correctional officers and other public employees, Rauner would rob the retirement security of those who dedicate their lives to public service—most of whom aren’t eligible for Social Security, and many of whom risk their physical safety to serve.

      These unfair cuts are clearly in violation of the plain language of the constitutional pension clause.

    1. Ralph lays it out in plain language: the state borrowed the pensions for years and now need to pay the money back according to a timetable the state established.
      The public though has been wrongly led to believe that retirees are the bad guys having these ultra rich pensions. Rauner and his minions are adamant that we must pay back the amount which which stolen from us in the first place in irder to keep the star solvent.

      1. Sue, you’re absolutely correct. They want to scream about the problem, blame the workers for making too much money, and say were should shoulder the burden of correcting it.
        There are two main things I wonder about here.
        One, they need to listen to Ralph because he lays out a fiscal plan that is sensible and long-term. But they will fight it tooth-and-nail because the main component is a progressive income tax. This problem was decades in the making, and it’s going to take decades to fix. If they try to fix the finances quickly there will be inequities that will only exacerbate the problem and make it worse.
        Two, I would like to see what public sector jobs will look like in 20 or 30 years. With all their bashing and negative campaigning against of educators, police, firemen, state and local workers, what young person in their right mind is going to pursue these as a career? And that really saddens me because even though I retired in 2011 I was still having so much fun with the kids. Teaching is a joyful profession with many rewards. It would be a shame if some of are best and brightest turn their collective backs on it because of all this nonsense.

  3. There’s currently a nation-wide shortage of substitute teachers with no relief in sight because:

    “A frequent source of substitutes has been education majors looking for experience, but officials say fewer college students are choosing teaching as a career path.”

    Gee, I wonder why.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s