The morning paper sometimes ruins my breakfast. Such was the case a few weeks ago when the Daily Herald ran a front page story with the title: "Five Myths Told By Illinois Politicians." I am not surprised that there are such myths. I am just surprised at how blatant they are and why almost no one in my state cares, or seems to care. Here are the five myths:
1. The Illinois Lottery pays for public education
This line was fed to almost every state in America that has a lottery. (Which states do not have them? I guess there are a few left but I am not sure.) The lottery began in Illinois in 1974 but the money wasn't earmarked for education until 1985! But the law has a huge catch in it. The lottery money does not get added to the budgeted funds. The legislators can spend it elsewhere by taking from the state's education budget and moving money to other projects, which they happily do. The millions earned from the lottery are a "mere fraction" of the total cost to the state for education. The lottery will bring in $664 million for education in the coming year but the total budget is over $20 billion. So much for bailing out the state. Even the lottery admits its total contribution, when all is said and done, is about 3% of the state's education expenses. But the state has run ads for so long that people think this is not true. They really believe the schools are better because of the lottery.
2. Gas taxes pay for road construction
This is another one of those myths that people believe because the state has lied to us time and time again. This lie is closer to the truth than the first one about the lottery but it is still not the whole truth. Money has been diverted over the years to pay workers comp claims and group insurance costs for the department of transportation, the police and the secretary of state's expenses. It now appears road dollars are being used to prop up other unrelated spending. And some legislators want to raise the gasoline tax in Illinois to pay for new road construction and bridge repairs.
3. Our tollway system is supposed to be free
Back in 1967 we were told that when the cost of the tollways was paid off these would become freeways. Guess what. They are still tollways, as vast and more expensive as ever. The original Illinois tollway in 1958 was 187 miles. Now we have 286 miles in the state. We are not paying off more than $3.2 billion in debt.
4. The state budget must be balanced
The Illinois Constitution says this must be so. The governor must submit a plan to do it. Our new governor, Patrick Quinn (photo at left), who replaced our indicted and impeached governor a few months ago, said just a few weeks ago: "For years, Illinois has delayed health care payments as a gimmick to balance the budget on the backs of Illinois health care providers." The truth is that Illinois has long carried bills over from one fiscal year to the next. Why? It is a shrewd, but totally deceitful way, of saying they balanced the budget.
5. Limits on losses at riverboat casinos
The first casinos opened their doors in Illinois with no limits on personal loss. The Democrat from Rockford, Illinois, who sponsored this legislation back in 1990 said the limit would be $500. This provision, it turns out, was not in the final bill that was passed. The congressman first said it was left out as an oversight but then later admitted that limits were a bad idea in the first place. Since he died in 1993 the mystery remains. Did he know?
One thing I know. I am fed up. I looked at my wife and said, "What can we do?" One option is to move to Texas. For those who do not know it is one of the few states that gets it right, which created a recent storm when the governor said so and spoke of a clause which could allow Texas to leave the Union.
Protests are growing but I wonder if enough citizens really, truly care. I even wonder about these protests themselves. (How much of this is driven by libertarian ideals that are not going to move the majority of Americans toward political change?) Most citizens seem content to let the system that created this problem, at least in Illinois, go without serious challenge. Unless "we the people" really challenge our government we may be led into an economic pit from whence we will not escape without the kind of social chaos that could disrupt the whole direction of America as we've known it for generations. Now you know why the morning paper ruined my breakfast.
I do believe a tax payers revolt is needed. I am not settled on how to express this revolt but most of the movements I see on the horizon are not ones that I am personally thrilled about. I know I will not lead such a movement but I will join the right one if it is bi-partisan, reasonable and advanced without violence. The time seems right. Our leaders, at least most of them, are clearly NOT listening to the people on this issue. We need to get their attention before it is too late. Can this be done without it becoming an anti-Obama movement? I am not sure. What is needed is to get people from every persuasion on board before we fall into a very huge hole.