With the drama of newly impeached Governor Rod Blagojevich a distant memory, it's fine time that Illinois lawmakers got down to the people's business and worked to solve the state's startling $11.5 billion shortfall. According to the Chicago Tribune, if you converted the shortfall into $100 bills and stacked them it would make a tower 9 miles high and weigh 126 tons. The state of Illinois was surviving on borrowed money long before the current fiscal crisis rocked the Land of Lincoln. Part of the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of Governor Rod Blagojevich who infamously took a no new taxes pledge, saying, "We're not going to raise taxes on people." But then oddly, Governor Blagojevich turned around and proposed a gross receipts tax which would ultimately be paid by... people. When his proposal was defeated, he sat back and let the state go deeper and deeper into debt.
On Wednesday, Governor Pat Quinn worked to close the door on the Blagojevich era by proposing his own sweeping fix to the state's budget. Along with over $1 billion in cuts, he also proposes to increase the state's income tax rate from 3 to 4.5 percent and triple the personal exemption from $2,000 to $6,000. These are not easy times for governors of any state, but Governor Quinn's position is certainly unenviable considering the situation he is inheriting. The debate over how to solve Illinois' budget problems is far from over, but Governor Quinn's proposal is a welcome shift from the close-your-eyes-and-duck approach of his predecessor.