Illinois can regain fiscal footing

Illinois can regain fiscal footing

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by Judy Baar Topinka
Illinois Comptroller
It’s a lesson every family knows well—you can’t spend more money than you have. If you do, it will lead to financial ruin.

But sadly, the state of Illinois has ignored that rule for years, spending and borrowing its way deeper and deeper into debt in the hopes of somehow paying it off “tomorrow.” As a result, the state today has more than $7 billion in unpaid bills, forcing our small businesses, hospitals, schools and social service agencies to wait months for payment.

The situation is unconscionable and it needs to change. But how? As the state’s chief fiscal officer, I have some ideas.

First and foremost, Illinois has to knock off the spending and borrowing that got us into this mess in the first place. That means making difficult decisions with the budget and implementing efficiencies that will allow the state to do more with less.

Second, we have to grow our economy by creating conditions for businesses to thrive and create new, good jobs. Imagine if instead of piling new taxes and regulations on employers, the state worked with them to grow and locate here.

Finally, Illinois must address the two biggest drains on its budget: pensions and Medicaid. And in making those reforms, the state must ensure that it treads carefully to ensure that our employees and most vulnerable residents are not sacrificed.

I can assure you that none of that will just happen. We will only bring change to Illinois by speaking out and demanding a different approach to state finances. That means residents like you reaching out to your representatives to make sure they know that you’re paying attention.

As one who has made a career of nagging until I get answers, I can tell you that persistence pays off. So stay at it and don’t get discouraged. The fact is that we can restore our fiscal integrity — it’s just going to take some work.

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