Wednesday, February 16, 2005

cigarette taxes and other issues

So much to be offended by in just one article...

I don't like arbitrarily sticking it to smokers because they are politically vulnerable. It seems that this type of policy weakens the notion that there is a collective responsibility to pay the bills for the good things government does. It makes people feel singled-out for government persecution. It feeds anti-government backlash.

The article explains that a number of these "fixes" proposed by RB have been sent to the legislature before and failed to pass.
[T]he Democratic governor's administration acknowledged the state still suffers from a "structural deficit." Specifically, the administration said state expenditures were rising faster than revenues particularly because of escalating costs for employee pensions and health care for state workers and the poor.

With Blagojevich dead-set against increasing the sales or income taxes, he may try to force critics to choose between the interests of the bureaucracy of state workers or that of children in public schools.

It's nice to see I won't have to fold this blog because RB has discovered a sense of honor.
Blagojevich's plan would give smaller benefits to new employees and prevent school districts from giving fat end-of-career pay raises to workers that help boost their state-funded pensions.

There's a question of generational justice here. It seems unfair that older Illinoisans are spared belt-tightening while younger Illinoisans are getting less.

RB does deserve praise for addressing the pension sweeteners and Madigan and other senior legislators of both parties deserve some scorn on this point.
Blagojevich's plan, to be unveiled before a joint session of the legislature, would tap into hundreds of dedicated state bank accounts to give schools an additional $140 million--a significant decrease from the $400 million in new school spending he called for in each of his first two years in office.

What's a "dedicated state bank account"?

The folks at A+ Illinois claim that Blago's big school spending increase only amounted to less than $3 per student--or some such paltry number--after being adjusted for inflation.
The governor's plan also contains an unusual admission that job reductions in the problem-plagued Department of Natural Resources may have cut too deeply. Blagojevich proposed hiring 50 workers in state parks, including many who were among more than 100 recently laid off by the agency.

Long and Pearson (the authors) give Blago the benefit of the doubt on this one. Republicans accused RB of sacking GOP-hired DNR employees to make room for this own people. This seems more likely given the short lapse between the lay-offs and the decision to rehire.
In his rookie year as governor, Blagojevich pushed through a $10 billion bond issue to help shore up state employee funds and raise badly needed cash for him to help close the first of the gaping budget deficits he has faced.

Translation: Rod was completely irresponsible and borrowed rather than address the problem.
But Republicans on the [blue-ribbon pension] commission said they feared Blagojevich simply wanted to change the [pension system's] long-term funding formula to free up $600 million to $800 million that he could spend now.

Watch the politicians closely on this!


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