The news item I will cite goes back over a week, but the problem surely remains. In light of the ongoing battles over public-sector wages and benefits as well as the taxes which pay for them, it deserves far more attention than it is currently receiving. It follows up on an October 15 post (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) where I noted, in reviewing an Associates Press story which originally appeared the previous day, that the State of Illinois' financial inability to pay its vendors on time and the related hardships involved have been mostly getting the establishment press silent treatment, while efforts at fiscal balance in Ohio and Wisconsin largely involving collective-bargaining reforms have been national stories with mostly negative coverage.
An October 20 AP item by Political Writer John O'Connor informs us that who gets paid first is often driven by politicians' pleas instead of place in line. Despite O'Connor's claim that "Republican or Democrat" influence can be involved, he only cited examples involving Democratic lawmakers:
Bills get paid faster in Ill. with lawmakers' help
If you plan on doing business with the state of Illinois, you'd better learn to beg - preferably to an influential politician.
With the state billions of dollars behind in paying its debt, collecting on unpaid bills can be a torturous, confusing process in which how fast you get paid may depend on who goes to bat for you.After receiving "hardship" appeals from businesses and community organizations awaiting payment from the state, Gov. Pat Quinn's budget office asked to speed up the payment of $1.1 billion on more than 21,000 vouchers in the last 13 months. That's an average of 83 each business day, according to an Associated Press analysis of state records.
Nearly 1,000 pages of emails and letters to the state, obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act and supported by other documents and interviews, showed that businesses and nonprofits backed by lawmakers or others with clout - Democrat or Republican - often get paid more quickly than others.
But the rules for who gets paid and how quickly are not always followed. Even state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, whose office is in charge of writing the checks, acknowledges the system isn't fair.
"Is any of this fair? None of it is fair," said Topinka, a Republican. "No matter what we do, we're going to have to juggle."
To help them determine who needs it the most, Topinka said her staff relies on what "a legislator or an agency director tells us. I don't know another way to get at it."
The legislators named in the rest of O'Connor's piece include:
- Illinois Senate President John Cullerton -- Democrat
- House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie -- Democrat
- Currie's "Senate counterpart," James Clayborne -- Democrat
- Rep. Anthony DeLuca -- "D-Crete"
- Sen. Linda Holmes and Rep. Linda Chapa La Via -- both are identified as Democrats from Aurora
Here's an intensely annoying quote from Democratic Governor Quinn noted by O'Connor:
In an interview with the AP, Quinn expressed no dissatisfaction with a system he said predates his time in office.
"No dissatisfaction"? No desire to improve an awful situation? No remorse of problems which haven't been resolved despite 67% and 46% increases in personal and business income taxes, respectively?
Oh, but state employees have done just fine:
... cost of living increases for AFSCME members have averaged 4.25 percent a year over the past five years. From 2007 to 2010, the resolution says, the consumer price index has increased an average of 1.95 percent a year.
With compounding, 4.25% per year for five years amounts to just over 23% -- and wages were already way out of kilter compared to the private sector in 2008. If state employee raises had averaged half of that over all five years, it might have the money right now to get its vendors back to 30 days. The state may not even have "needed" to raise income taxes -- and wouldn't be playing a political winners and losers game which (surprise) appears to be tilted towards helping people connected with the majority party over who does and doesn't get paid.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.