We recently headed east to Ohio for a family reunion and water-sports showdown. Because I’m only a generation removed from farming, I couldn’t help but notice the dire state of the corn and soybeans across Illinois, Indiana, and into central Ohio. Drought emergencies have been declared in multiple states. You don’t have to look for the official declaration, however, just look at the worry lines and frowns in the small towns throughout the Midwest. People know that a certain percentage of peers will face bankruptcy as a result, and no amount of federal emergency funding will change that.
What does it mean for you? Expect an increase to your grocery bill in the next few months – 25% or higher, depending on your diet and where you live. Grain and soy prices affect such a large portion of the food supply…
…And while you’re at it, go ahead an budget for the continuing increase to your taxes – especially you fellow resident of Illinois. The debtor state’s comptroller just announced an estimated $7.5-8 billion figure for monies owed to entities such as vendors, schools, and municipalities. This backlog of bills is, of course, only a small portion of an astronomical $43 billion deficit, if one considers the cost of pension benefits owed to state workers. This despite the tax increase Governor Pat Quinn campaigned on.
Our trip to Ohio brought us into states that actually have budget surpluses. Yes, a foreign concept around here, but there they were on the Columbus local news, discussing the best way to obligate funds for a budget surplus. I’m thinking, what kind of magicians, what superhuman policymakers could achieve such fiscal responsibility?
As we returned to Illinois, we were greeted with three bullet points on our local radio news:
- The drought emergency
- The debt estimate on unpaid bills
- Announcement that the state is re-initiating a program to pay electric bills for persons in need to run their A/C and keep the power on
Does that third seem a little off, maybe a little bit divergent with the first two? Yes, at the risk of being insensitive and callous, I’m not a fan. I’m more concerned with the $4-5 million the state owes to Springfield schools, or the $4 million owed to the city. I know it’s an election year and substantive improvements are off the the table, that Quinn and the General Assembly are content to enact gestures – like applying for federal drought aid and providing power bill relief to the unfortunate. I also know that our taxes are bound to go up in the debtor state – again.
If you are living somewhere else, thinking this doesn’t affect you, you’re mostly right. But ask yourself – who pays for California and Illinois as they become more and more unsustainable. Who foots the bill for these huge deficits, bankruptcies, and pension obligations? We are like the Greece and Ireland of the states, and we all know how that’s working out.
Fortunately, last night the Mayor and City Council enacted measures here in Springfield to help deal with their own budget problems: video gambling was approved. Our troubles are over.