Day of reckoning is coming for Illinois

If you're still in shock from that recent property tax bill you had to pay, prepare yourself. There's plenty more coming in January.

No, not your December credit card bill after the holidays, though that'll hit, too. I'm talking about the tax increase GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner, Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan and the rest of our legislators likely will agree to pass on to you after the stopgap debacle we all let them pull over on us right before the 4th of July holiday.

We keep trying to sound the alarm about this and so do a handful of suburban Republican and Democratic lawmakers who voted for and against the stopgap budget.

The four suburban lawmakers who voted against the six-month budget were state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat who is not seeking re-election; state Rep. Jeanne Ives, a Wheaton Republican; state Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican; and state Rep. Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican.

Others decrying the plan - though they voted for all or part of it - include state Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican, and state Rep. Scott Drury, a Highwood Democrat.

Harris wrote in the Daily Herald that the temporary budget was "a necessary evil that did not move us any closer to solving our long-term fiscal problems."

The state's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability recently projected a new record of $7.8 billion in spending that outstrips income by year's end, a new record in a state known for spending more than it takes in.

Drury voted for the budget, he told me, because the state needed one, but against the implementation bill because it swept several "special funds" to find the money to pay some of the social service agencies and universities that were near collapse after many of them had gone since 2015 without any state aid.

Drury has a problem with taking money from nearly 800 special funds most taxpayers ignore that are supposed to be preserved for specific purposes.

Last year, he noted, a budget crisis was resolved by sweeping the funds with a promise to pay them back. This year, the funds were swept and that previous I.O.U. was wiped away.

"I was surprised that Gov. Rauner, who was opposed to these sorts of budget gimmicks and tricks, was supportive of that," Drury said. "It's another budgeting gimmick, and a one-time gimmick at that, because we swept a lot of funds to zero."

Fees and some taxes start replenishing the funds immediately, of course, but they don't build up overnight.

These are the funds you pay to get fancy license plates or to ensure we have noble things like a police memorial fund, or scores of other causes we should reconsider when we're going to have nearly $8 billion in unpaid bills.

Sweep, sweep, sweep and back to zero we go.

"(The funds are used) like a rainy-day fund when we should be building a real rainy-day fund," Drury said.

Instead, we just keep looking the other way while our elected officials push forward our days of reckoning so we can leave the problem to our children and grandchildren to handle.

Illinois residents and their elected representatives now have wasted 19 months without any substantive talk about what kind of pension changes we might try to make, or what kind of tax structure and rates we ought to have, or whether we should have nearly 800 special funds, or how we might manage the bill backlog that will break bad records by year's end.

At the end of June, we watched as Republicans and Democrats stole from Mom's wallet to repay the loan we swiped from Dad when we wanted to pay back our buddy for that pizza and ice cream cone we bought at the water park.

We delude ourselves this way, or let the elected officials we gave up on long ago delude themselves and us every time things get just a bit too real.

Drury has another analogy. State lawmakers, he says, are like "heroin addicts and the sweeps were like little heroin doses making us feel better."

• Madeleine Doubek is chief operating officer of Reboot Illinois.

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