3 Things to Annoy You Right Before Christmas
The bad news: Job growth in Illinois is too slow, and prison inmates probably watch better TV than you. The good news: Your lawmaker is one of the highest paid in the nation.
Feeling all warm and full of good cheer? Bah! Here's a little something to satisfy the Scrooge in you before the spirit of Christmas takes hold.
We Need More Jobs: At 8.7 percent, the Illinois unemployment rate is 1 percent above the national rate. And job creation is improving at a faster clip all around us, in Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa and Missouri, on average, according to Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner at the Illinois Policy Institute.
"The reality is Illinois’ poor policies aren't allowing the state to participate fully in the national recovery. If only Illinois’ unemployment rate were equal to the average of its neighbors, 100,000 more Illinoisans would be working. Yes, jobs are slowly returning to the state, but that’s despite Springfield’s policies of overspending, overtaxing and over-borrowing — not because of it," they write on the IPI blog.
Prison TV Costs $2.2 Million: From 2010 to 2012, the state of Illinois spent $2.2 million in taxpayer money on MTV, ESPN, Fox Sports, BET, Home Shopping Network and other cable TV stations for the state's prison inmates, according to the 2012 Piglet Book assembled by our friends at the IPI.
Maybe steady doses of Rihanna and Chris Berman keep the cons happy and quiescent.
At $38,268 a year, the state spends more per inmate than our Indiana neighbors do. The Hoosiers spend $14,823. If you're one of the unlucky Illinoisans to have lost a job, pay TV was probably one of the first things you cut back on.
Pretty Pennies in Someone's Pocket: Your wallet may be lighter, but you can be assured Illinois is a national leader in one respect — our state lawmakers are among the highest paid in America. The average salary for a member of the General Assembly is $77,382, according to the Better Government Association.
The average salary for the average Joe in the Land of Lincoln: $46,550.
In judging the value we get for the dollars spent on our reps, the BGA notes that former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker led a special State Budget Crisis Task Force that studied Illinois' financial condition and issued a special report. Let's just call it a job performance review for state government.
"Infrastructure is deteriorating. Education is threatened. Public safety, public health, and care for the needy all are at risk. Taxpayers and the state’s competitiveness are also at risk," the report concluded. "The culture of budget gimmickry and short-sightedness pushes costs off to the future, but eventually that will be impossible — retirees may lose their pensions as the funds dwindle; low income and disabled people may lose their healthcare as costs escalate; and citizens and businesses seeking a stable environment may face steep and sudden tax increases."
Guess you don't get what you pay for, after all. Humbug.
This Patch on Politics post is published throughout the Chicago-area Patch network. This post was closed to comments Jan. 3, 2013.