A starting point to cut state spending
We've said time and again that the income tax increase that's going to take more money out of the pockets of Illinois taxpayers has to be accompanied by cuts, cuts and more cuts in state spending.
We called for cuts during the long ramp-up to the 67 percent tax increase enacted this month -- and not just the cuts to schools and social agencies that seemed calculated to raise a hue and cry in favor of a tax hike.
We called for cuts on the very day Gov. Pat Quinn signed the tax increase into law two weeks ago, challenging him to re-examine every state job on the way toward building a cheaper, more efficient administration.
So we're dismayed to still hear examples of spending excesses that can only be called -- in the words of state Rep. Jack Franks -- "low-hanging fruit."
In other words, easy, obvious spending cuts.
Like the $31,426-per-year salaries for Quinn-appointed Illinois Toll Highway Authority board members, who also qualify for health and pension benefits. Board members say the job entails more than simply attending the 12 meetings per year, and it's clear that effective board members put more than that into their duties.
But it's hardly a full-time job, or a half-time job. Not even close.
We won't go as far as Franks and say the nine board members should work for free -- though tollway board Chairwoman Paula Wolff does forgo the $36,077 salary that goes with that job. Moderate salaries and expense reimbursement are called for, certainly with extra scrutiny of anything over five figures.
True, tollway savings don't directly feed the state budget, since the toll authority enjoys financial autonomy. But it's also not the only agency overspending on board salaries. Franks, a Woodstock Democrat, takes aim at other transit agencies, including the state-funded Regional Transportation Agency, where board members appointed by the Chicago mayor and suburban county officials make $25,000 plus health and pension benefits for obligations including one meeting a month.
If you want an eye-opening look at the plethora of appointed state boards, who's on them and whether they're paid, delve into http://appointments.illinois.gov/appointmentslisting.cfm.
Here's a starting point, Gov. Quinn. Take a solid inventory of board appointee salaries vs. duties, and you might turn up some real savings. Of course, you might also lose some cushy patronage positions, but that's also good for us, the taxpayers.
Just don't ignore the issue Franks has raised. You took money out of our pockets at a time when many of us can least afford it. You owe it to us to cut, and cut quickly and cut deeply.
Here's a way to begin.