We live in a world where the Law of Unintended Consequences impacts our lives daily. In Tazewell County, along with every other municipality and business in the State of Illinois, we are feeling the unintended (and sometimes intended) consequences of the Illinois legislative process.
Let me state at the outset that the task facing our state government is monumental and this article is in no way intended as a piling on. Having said that, we find ourselves routinely fending off legislation that has serious negative effects on our ability to govern effectively.
The first area of consequence includes those areas where the State of Illinois is statutorily obligated to pay. As of this writing, reimbursement for the State’s Attorney, Supervisor of Assessments and Public Defender have been cut 100 percent. These positions are to be fully or partially funded by the state. This immediately puts us more than a quarter of a million dollars in the hole. Additionally, the money for probation officers has been extremely slow and not fully funded, requiring us to eliminate one position so far this year.
A second area of frustration is the elimination or reduction of existing sources of revenue with little or no notice. There is currently a bill on the desk of the governor taking away the Sheriff’s oversight of the foreclosure process. With the governor’s signature—assuming he signs the bill—Tazewell County will lose approximately $140,000 in revenue we have budgeted for this year.
Finally, and probably the most frustrating, are the unfunded mandates. Pension enhancements are the most common and costly. The amazing thing is that legislators continue to introduce more pension enhancements even as the current programs are severely unfunded! Tazewell County now pays an additional $100,000 per year on top of existing obligations because of these unfunded perks. One can argue whether certain classes of employees deserve larger pensions, but to pass these with the expectation that others pay the freight is unconscionable.
Although I could go on and list more unintended consequences, one final important expenditure is the lobbying cost associated with defending our interests in Springfield. Without someone giving voice to our responsibilities and causes, we would be dealing with even more significant consequences that affect every citizen in our county. The cost of lobbying, although small, is worth every penny.
We continue to manage our way successfully through this downturn by making wise and difficult choices. Our goal is to make it through and emerge in a stronger financial position. But we need to know what the rules of engagement are and not be aiming at a moving target. To do that, we need the State of Illinois to play by the same rules that we play by every day. Every governmental entity and business wants to help get the State of Illinois back on its feet financially. Let’s work together and not keep putting each other on the defense. iBi