Illinois has a budget deficit of $8 billion and has billions of dollars in unpaid bills. Those problems persist after the largest tax hikes in history.

However, Illinois is wasting millions of dollars in programs that many would consider absurd even in good times. For example, please consider $365K In Taxpayer Dollars To Teach People How To Fish?

In his winter budget address, Gov. Pat Quinn pledged that “all unnecessary state spending will be eliminated.” Now it appears the state is preparing once again, to spend a third of a million dollars – taxpayer dollars – to teach people how to fish.

“I don’t think teaching people how to fish in urban areas or rural areas is a core government service,” says CEO John Tillman. And he complains that in this year’s budget, “they’ve increased it from $351,000 to $365,000.”

Get Out the Veto Pen

A review by the Illinois Policy Institute found that the budget passed by the House left overall spending levels largely unchanged from last year. Additionally, many low-priority projects are slated to receive millions of dollars – dollars that deficit-plagued state government doesn’t have to spare.

Please consider Get Out the Veto Pen by the Illinois Policy Institute.

Illinois lawmakers have been patting themselves on the back for supposedly holding the line on spending and getting rid of wasteful projects. Should taxpayers buy into this new-found “fiscal responsibility?” No.

A review by the Illinois Policy Institute found that the budget passed by the House left overall spending levels largely unchanged from last year. Additionally, many low-priority projects are slated to receive millions of dollars – dollars that deficit plagued state government doesn’t have to spare.

Low Priority State Spending in Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Passed by the General Assembly

1. $4,037,500: Upward Mobility Program

Available only to state employees who are union members represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, the Upward Mobility Program pays 100 percent of tuition costs at public institutions and a set amount per credit hour at select private universities. Participants can also receive financial assistance to pay for textbooks, fees, proficiency tests, remedial classes, licensure review classes and licensure examinations. After completing the program state employees are given “special consideration in the filling of vacancies” of targeted state job titles. Illinois is in the midst of a massive budget crisis. Workers who hold state positions in Illinois already are well paid, receive generous benefits and enjoy high job security. Illinois needs to prioritize spending on core government services over union perks.

2. $1,057,500: DuQuoin State Fair and Illinois State Fair entertainment and award costs

The DuQuoin State Fair and the Illinois State Fair have a long record of incurring expenditures that outweigh their revenues. Between fiscal years 2001 and 2009, the two fairs lost a combined total that exceeded $41.8 million. While turning a profit may not be the purpose of the state fairs, it is unacceptable for the state fairs to lose millions of dollars each year.

States such as South Dakota, Ohio, Colorado and Kansas have reduced their fair spending to deal with budget shortages, while Michigan recently shut down its government-run state fair. Meanwhile, Texas has shown that a privately-run state fair that operates without government subsidy can be successful.

3. $4,214,400: Grants to Art Organizations and Individuals

When the state is strapped for cash – and when taxpayers and core services are suffering – certain items do not make the state’s top-priority list. Grants to art organizations and individual artists may be nice, but they’re not necessary.

….

6. $23,836,900: Tourism Promotion

Many of the tourism promotion allotments have been questionable; in recent
years, tourism grants from the DCEO have included:

  • $29,550 for a Lois Lane statue in Metropolis, Ill.
  • $334,093 to Rockome Gardens for renovations including the addition of Amish cheese and ice cream production facilities.
  • $100,000 to the Municipal Clerks of Illinois for the International Institute of Municipal Clerks 2009 Conference.
  • $200,000 for the costs associated with hosting Fashion Focus Chicago 2009.
  • $32,681 for promotion of Fashion Focus 2008.

….

10. $9,000,000: Renewable Energy Resources Program and the Illinois Renewable Fuels Development Program

Illinois’s wealth of energy resources should be utilized to provide Illinois’s families and businesses with reliable sources of power. However, Illinois state government is distorting energy prices and driving up overall government spending by awarding tax dollars to certain energy sectors via special government programs.

In recent years, solar, wind, and biomass/biogas grants from the Renewable Energy Resources Program have included:

  • $450,000 for the University of Illinois to “implement the Biogas and Biomass to Energy program.”
  • $253,350 for solar thermal hot water systems to heat Northern Illinois University’s swimming pools.
  • $132,198 for the Pacific Garden Mission to install a solar thermal hot water system at its new facility in Chicago.
  • $82,006 for six grants to individuals for small-scale wind energy conversion systems.
  • $32,000 to the Illinois Solar Energy Association to “promote solar energy in Illinois through the Illinois Solar Tour, the Heliographs newsletter, and by studying the potential to aggregate renewable energy credits for small-scale solar photovoltaic energy systems.”
  • $13,358 to the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity house at Northern Illinois University for a solar thermal energy system in order to “increase the utilization of alternative energy technology in Illinois.”

New subsidies for energy projects should not be enacted, and current subsides need to be removed. Across Illinois, private companies provide funding for their own marketing, promotion, and research and development; firms in the energy industry should be treated in the same way.

More Misguided Policies

The list of graft, stupidity, and union handouts in Illinois is nearly endless. For example, please consider Illinois Doesn’t Pay Bills; Crisis Pushes Businesses to Edge of Bankruptcy

Just this May, Governor Quinn Holds Illinois Cities Hostage Over Budget Proposal; Cities Face Massive Cash Crunch

In spite of the biggest tax hikes in the history of Illinois, the state is still $8 billion in a budget-deficit hole. Instead of cutting expenses, Governor Quinn wants to borrow $8.75 billion to pay the bills. Currently, Illinois is just starting to pay bills from November 2010.

To get approval for his preposterous proposal, Quinn threatens cities’ revenue sharing unless they hop on board his plan. Currently $1 billion a year is distributed from state income tax collections to cities, based on population.

Amazingly, Quinn’s budget director says this is “not a hostile message”.

Madigan honored with “prevailing wage” award

Instead of acting to help cities, Governor Quinn strengthened prevailing wage laws several times as noted in Madigan honored with “prevailing wage” award

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan accepted an award from the state’s Building Trades Council in Bloomington for her previous pro-union legislation. The Reuben G. Soderstrom Prevailing Wage Award is given annually. Madigan says she’s honored and will continue with the same work. She says she’s now working on a bill to enhance penalties for criminal violations of the prevailing wage act. Madigan says under the law, violations would be a class four felony.

“I think the real impact would be, that it would provide for debarment,” Madigan said. “In other words, employers, contractors who are found to have criminally violated the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act will not be allowed to bid on contracts for a period of four years.”

Democrats Running Illinois Into the Ground For Decades

Lisa Madigan is daughter of Michael Madigan, Speaker of the Illinois House every year since 1983 except 1994-1996. Clearly Democrats have been running Illinois into the ground for decades.

Instead of attempting to fix those structural problems, Governor Quinn with “leadership” from Michael Madigan …

  • Hiked the personal income tax rate from 3% to 5% (a 67% hike in rates).
  • Hiked the corporate income tax rate from 4.8% to 7% (a 46% hike in rates).

Note that corporations also have to pay a 2.5% “personal property replacement tax” effectively making the state corporate income tax rate 9.5%.

Blatant Lies By Governor Quinn

The Daily Herald notes that On the campaign trail, Gov. Pat Quinn told voters he’d veto any income tax hike that would raise Illinois’ rate over 4 percent.

I believe that is one of the fastest proven lies in political history.

Illinois has not paid some bills since November, has a budget deficit of $8 billion, yet funds inane fishing programs, state fairs, swimming pools, and other nonsense. Such is the sad state of affairs in the worst-run state in the nation.

About the author: Mike “Mish” Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for Sitka Pacific Capital Management. His top-rated global economics blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis offers insightful commentary every day of the week. He is also a contributing “professor” on Minyanville, a community site focused on economic and financial education. Every Thursday he does a podcast on HoweStreet and on an ad hoc basis he contributes to many other websites, including UnionWatch.

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