For the past week, newspapers around Illinois have published the results of a unique joint investigation. "Deadbeat Illinois" has disclosed, with shocking detail, the depth of state government's deliberate policy of paying billions of dollars in bills late.
In three editorials last week, we decried this unconscionable practice, called on suburban legislators to demand an end to it and called on voters to use the topic as a litmus-test issue when reviewing candidates next year.
We were not the only newspaper working with The Associated Press on this project. And we were not the only one speaking about it on the editorial page. Here are excerpts from other newspapers. (Links to the full versions of them appear below to the left.)
Alton Telegraph, Oct. 16:
State's backlog of bills infuriating
Unfortunately, as the system now stands, there are no repercussions for elected officials who fail to make the hard choices needed to allow Illinois to pay its bills. State government is allowed to go on with its deficit spending, an option not available to those in the private sector.
In our opinion, the first bills that the state should delay payment on should be the paychecks of our state legislators and officeholders. What do you think would happen if that were the case? Do you think our state government finally might figure out how to get its bills paid if it meant that lawmakers would go without their salaries until they did so?
Belleville News-Democrat, Oct. 16:
Dancing with the State (debt)
We find ourselves having a bad dream. We are contestants on "Dancing with the State." Our partner is a drunken sailor with two left feet. And we are in the advanced competition, trying to learn the "Taxation Three-Step" as the Lawrence Welk Orchestra plays selections from Ludacris. Rehearsal never stops.
Bloomington Pantagraph, Oct. 16:
Behind numbers are real people hurt
When you read the amount of money owed by the state of Illinois in unpaid bills -- nearly $5 billion and counting -- it can be mind-numbing ... But as you read individual stories of the ways in which Illinois' deadbeat habits have harmed individuals, agencies, businesses and local governments, the real impact of this shameful practice should become more clear. And, let's hope, the pressure on state officials to address the problem will intensify.
Decatur Herald & Review, Oct. 19:
Governor pushes state's deadbeat ways
Our political leaders have done little to pay the state's bills on time. In fact, state budgets have been built on the idea that the state won't pay its bills in a timely manner.
... The General Assembly should be concerning itself with how to get out of this financial mess. Instead, (Gov. Pat) Quinn is going to encourage legislators to spend more money the state doesn't have. The result is that it likely will continue to take advantage of businesses, organizations, local governments and taxpayers.
Springfield State Journal-Register, Oct. 18:
Numbers are bad, no matter the politics
It's not among the duties of a U.S. senator to supervise the budget of his or her home state. Kudos, then, to Sen. Mark Kirk for his recent report that, in 32 pages, neatly sums up the dire state of Illinois' finances today and the looming disaster ...
"Indeed, the State has put itself in a classic 'debt spiral,'" the report notes. "It borrows to cover deficit spending, so credit ratings fall and interest rates rise. Taxes go up but tax receipts still fall short because businesses aren't growing and taxpayers are moving to other states. So, as if it were paying off a mortgage loan with a credit card, the government starts the cycle all over again by borrowing more."