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Fixing Illinois

Fixing Illinois: Politics and Policy in the Prairie State

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Fixing Illinois
    Book Description:

    In the 1950s, thriving commerce, strong leadership, and geographical good fortune made Illinois one of the most envied states in the nation. Today, long-festering problems have left it the butt of jokes and threatened it with fiscal catastrophe. In Fixing Illinois, James D. Nowlan and J. Thomas Johnson use their four decades of experience as Springfield veterans and government observers to propose solutions that are sure to ignite debate--and action. Fixing Illinois takes on ills from out-of-control benefits spending to the pension debacle, from high corporate tax rates to the soaring cost of higher education. Avoiding partisanship, Nowlan and Johnson argue for serious decisions and long-term planning that place the good of the state over parochial or regional interests. Among their more than ninety proposals to change the workings of Illinois state government for the better:An overhaul of state pension systems that includes more reasonable benefits and lengthening of the retirement age, among other changes;Broadening of the tax base to include services and reduction in rates;Raising funds with capital construction bonds to update and integrate the antiquated information systems used by state agencies;Uprooting the state's entrenched culture of corruption via public financing of elections, redistricting reform, and revolving door prohibitions for lawmakers Pointed, honest, and pragmatic, Fixing Illinois is a plan for effective and honest government that seeks an even nobler end: restoring our faith in Illinois's institutions and reviving a sense of citizenship and state pride.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09635-8
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. INTRODUCTION. The Future of Illinois
    (pp. 1-6)

    When we were boys growing up in small-town Illinois in the 1950s, life was good, and getting better. Crops on the farms around us were growing in size each year, and we saw trucks go through town loaded with hogs or cattle, headed for the sprawling Chicago Stock Yards, then to be cut into bacon and steaks at the great meat packers in the city.

    Chicago was far distant for us boys, yet we knew the city was big enough to host our favorite baseball and football teams. And we had seen pictures of the city’s factories, belching smoke and...

  2. CHAPTER 1 The Changing Faces of Illinois
    (pp. 7-20)

    The late North Carolina governor Terry Sanford once lamented that there is no one in the governor’s office whose only job is to gaze out the window and brood about the problems of the future.¹ So it is in Illinois. Unfortunately, Illinois doesn’t know where it is going. There is no planning agency within state government to chart a course for the coming five to ten years. There are no privately supported grand plans for the state such as Daniel Burnham’s 1909 plan for Chicago, with its wide boulevards, great parks, and a lakefront protected for the citizenry. The Chicago...

  3. CHAPTER 2 Fixing Past Budgeting Sins
    (pp. 21-38)

    Persistent annual state budget deficits in the early twenty-first century and huge unfunded liabilities in our state pension systems have made Illinois a symbol of dereliction of fiscal responsibilities. That is why we make budgeting the first substantive chapter of this book. This chapter provides an overview of our fiscal system, discusses the major causes of the deficits the state has been sustaining, and provides suggestions for managing our resources more effectively, revamping our revenue system and balancing our state budget.

    Illinois has a rather typical state and local government revenue system. That is, the state imposes taxes on income...

  4. CHAPTER 3 Upgrading Education
    (pp. 39-60)

    Education is arguably the most important function of state and local governments. The schools and universities provide the foundation on which the success or failure of society rests. This chapter begins with an overview of the scope, organization, and recent performance of K–12 education in Illinois. We then discuss Illinois’s convoluted system of state funding of local schools and go on to examine options for change in education within a context of constrained resources. The chapter ends with the topic of higher education and the whirlwind of change being caused largely by online education.

    Illinois enrolls 3 million students...

  5. CHAPTER 4 Improving Human Services and Health Care
    (pp. 61-77)

    Illinois provides direct social and healthcare services to more than 3.5 million of the state’s 12.8 million residents, more than one in four. Specific numbers are unavailable because the state’s four major human service and healthcare agencies, and major divisions within agencies as well, are generally incapable of sharing data with one another electronically. This is the case even though there is significant patient overlap because many individuals receive services from two or more agencies and divisions.

    The numbers add up quickly. Medicaid is the state-federal program that provides health care for low-income persons as well as for about two-thirds...

  6. CHAPTER 5 Economic Development for Stability
    (pp. 78-98)

    The Illinois economy is struggling. The state’s finances are a shambles of debt and unfunded obligations. In April 2013 the state’s unemployment rate was 9.3 percent, worst among all the states except Nevada.¹ From the employment peak of November 2000, Illinois lost 655,700 jobs and had regained only 192,000 of those jobs by March 2013.² The state’s image has been battered by the fact that four of Illinois’s past seven governors have served prison time for public corruption or white-collar crime.

    “The situation is currently as bad as I have ever seen it,” declares veteran economic development professional Steve McClure,...

  7. CHAPTER 6 Transportation: Maintaining Our Greatest Strength
    (pp. 99-116)

    Over the course of writing this book, we asked close observers of Illinois about the state’s greatest strengths, and our transportation infrastructure was most frequently at the top of the list. Though Illinois has long enjoyed a competitive edge due to its mature and diverse transportation system, that edge cannot be taken for granted as other U.S. hubs and other countries make major investments in their systems. A robust and efficient transportation system is critical if Illinois is to retain and increase its direct jobs in this sector, continue to provide businesses with the access they need to existing and...

  8. CHAPTER 7 Reengineering Our Governments
    (pp. 117-134)

    As noted in chapter 2, even if Illinois maintains the income tax increases of 2011, the state is still projected to run a deficit of about $2 billion per year, according to the respected Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. Simply to reduce spending on what we do at present will not be sufficient. In addition, we need to rethink how we do what we need to do. In this chapter, we take a look at several management challenges facing Illinois. Although this account is not exhaustive, we hope the illustrations that follow will spark...

  9. CHAPTER 8 Corruption in Illinois: An Enduring Tradition
    (pp. 135-148)

    Corruption has been an enduring habit in Illinois and Chicago governments throughout the state’s history. And habits are hard to break.

    In this chapter we discuss the realities and perceptions of this corruption and the costs the perceptions impose on Illinois.¹ We also offer observations about and options for transforming the culture of corruption that we believe exists in the state. We begin by noting that corruption is anything but a recent phenomenon in Illinois

    Ninian Edwards served as both the territorial governor of Illinois (1809–1818) and the third elected governor of the state (1826–30). Early in our...