Editorial Roundup: Illinois
Bloomington Pantagraph. July 4, 2021.
Editorial: Larry Dietz leaves ISU better than how he found it
Thank you, Larry Dietz.
The president of Illinois State University retired Wednesday after more than 50 years in higher education.
It's a career that has stretched into Missouri and Iowa, but has been firmly rooted in his native Illinois, where Dietz was born on a dairy farm outside DeSoto.
Dietz was a vice chancellor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale for a decade before coming to ISU in 2011 as vice president for Student Affairs.
As the 19th president of ISU, his accomplishments are too many to list, from creating the Center for Civic Engagement and Service Learning and renovating the Bone Student Center to hiring the first assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion. There are new degree programs and fundraising campaigns.
His tenure was marked by a commitment to the school's core values: Learning and Scholarship, Diversity and Inclusion, Respect, Collaboration, Individualized Attention, Civic Engagement, and Integrity.
Dietz lived by those values and leaves an institution stronger than when he arrived.
Now the torch is passed to Terri Goss Kinzy, who will chart her own path as ISU president. We're excited to see what comes next.
We wish Dietz and wife Marlene Dietz all the best in this new chapter. We're fortunate they are staying in our community, where their commitment to civic engagement will be visible for many years to come.
Champaign News-Gazette. July 4, 2021.
Editorial: When it comes to Illinois bond ratings, up definitely better than down
Any little bit helps.
A thirsty man wandering in the desert would never turn down a pint of water to demand a gallon.
So, in that context, why wouldn't - or shouldn't - Illinoisans be pleased and somewhat relieved to get a bit of good news involving Illinois' fiscal status?
Citing a 'úmaterial improvement in state finances,'Ě Moody's Investor Services recently raised the state's bond rating by one notch - up to Baa2 from Baa3.
Ordinary mortals won't know what that means. But Illinois has climbed the ladder from being one notch above junk bond status to two notches.
It's the first time Illinois' bond rating has been raised in 20 years. The improvement comes after a steady spiral downward.
That's good news, and it should be treated as such, because the higher a state's ratings are, the lower the interest rates it must pay on bonds it issues.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker was so pleased by the news that he about busted his buttons at a news conference he held to lavish praise on himself.
'úI promised to restore fiscal stability to Illinois, and Moody's rating upgrade demonstrates that Illinois' finances are heading in the right direction for the first time in two decades,'Ě he said, almost certainly previewing his 2022 re-election campaign rhetoric.
The governor clearly forecast continued rating improvements. But in doing so, Pritzker's position is akin to the fellow with severe hemorrhoid problems who argues vehemently that his problems are all behind him.
What's past isn't necessarily a permanent part of the past. Illinois remains in a heap of financial trouble.
Its bond ratings are the lowest of the 50 states. While Moody's praised the new state budget for increasing public pension contributions - the costs are up about 25% of the state's operating budget - it also noted the pensions are 'úroutinely shortchanged under the state's funding statute.'Ě
Strong revenue increases generated by the private sector have eased Illinois' cash flow problems, as have the multiple federal bailouts authorized by Congress and President Biden. Although the economy is growing steadily, continued large revenue increases aren't guaranteed, and no one expects the national government to approve future bailouts on top of past bailouts.
Financial analysts the governor likes to characterize as 'úcarnival barkers'Ě offered a different explanation for the bump upward in Illinois' bond rating.
Wirepoints' Mark Glennon attributed the state's improved standing to $138 billion in federal bailout payments that were outlined in a report prepared by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
THE CRFB said that amount was 'úcommitted or disbursed to public and private sector recipients'Ě and that 'úanother $24 billion is allowed for Illinois under federal legislation already passed.'Ě
Dismissing claims that state officials had anything to do with Illinois' improved bond rating, Glennon wrote 'úthe direct aid alone, to most states, including Illinois, exceeded any fiscal harm caused by the pandemic.'Ě
As is often the case, the argument is boiling down to who gets the credit for whatever improvements there are in Illinois finances. The good news is that there's an improvement for which some are vying for credit.
Arlington Heights Daily Herald. July 5, 2021.
Editorial: Unable to manage it, Illinois gives your money away
Let's see if we understand this.
Because of the combination of a record volume of unemployment claims due to the pandemic, unquantifiable identity theft fraud and the state's own incompetence, the Illinois Department of Employment Security overpaid unemployment benefits by more than $120 million.
And now, in a law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on June 25, the state says that if you received an overpayment in benefits, it's OK, just apply for a waiver and you probably can keep it.
State Sen. Linda Holmes of Aurora does not see a problem with that. One of the legislation's sponsors, she told the Chicago Tribune, 'úThe unemployment insurance system was completely overwhelmed. It was a disaster getting millions of unemployment claims in the span of a month and a half.'Ě
We do not doubt that it has been a disaster. And we concede that overpayments can happen,
With the enormous number of furloughs and layoffs last year, the department was swamped far beyond anything that could have been expected, so even if it operated with peak professionalism and efficiency, there no doubt would have been problems.
And clearly, peak professionalism and efficiency do not sound like they are words within the department's mission statement.
Even now, the department has not found a way to reopen its offices, fully or partially, despite the volume of claims and the level of fraud and other problems that confront it.
Your grocery store somehow is able to be open to serve you. As is the courthouse. And the pharmacy. And those restaurants that survived the pandemic economy.
But apparently it is too challenging for the state unemployment office, despite the record claims, the millions in overpayments and the widespread public exasperation.
Meanwhile, the Tribune reported last week that the department, which was subject to an unprecedented wave of identity-theft claims last year, failed until only recently to follow federal recommendations to adopt free fraud-fighting tools that were made available in 2019.
No, this is no crackerjack agency.
Given how broad the public's frustration with the department is, it may be a bit understandable that Pritzker, Holmes and others would not want to exacerbate frayed nerves by now dunning those who received overpayments, perhaps innocently without realizing it.
Or maybe they just don't trust that the department would get the repayments right anyway.
But this is the taxpayers' money the state is disregarding, isn't it?
At least that's the way we understand it.