Outside the Beltway: Luaus in Illinois? Sure, When Pork Is What’s for Dinner!

Mike Brownfield /

Luaus in Illinois?

$1,100 for Hawaiian party props and luaus? $78,066 to promote quail? $6,500 for a 4,000-gallon live bass fish tank? $10,000 for a Batman party? $353,165 to fund car racing?

Congratulations, Illinoisans, you’re funding all this and more with your hard-earned taxpayer dollars, courtesy of your state government in Springfield.

But those pet projects are a mere drop in the bucket compared to the $350 million in Illinois state government pork barrel spending the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) identifies in its “2010 Illinois Piglet Book,” released Tuesday.

That wasteful spending should come as troubling news for Illinois residents. The state “faces a historic budget crisis” and “chronic overspending on non-essential functions” that has “stretched the state’s finances to the breaking point,” as reported by the IPI’s Nicole Kurokawa.

Kurokawa writes that there is a dramatic disparity between the state’s projected revenue and budgeted spending, in addition to a marked increase in public employees:

Bizarrely, the state refuses to address its underlying spending problem, knowing full well that it does not have the money to pay for its current budget, much less its outstanding debt. The governor’s original 2010 budget called for $31.5 billion in general fund spending, despite the well-acknowledged fact that the state would only take in $27 billion in revenue. In addition, the state’s employment rolls are higher than ever.

Illinois’ problem isn’t a question of plunging revenue; in fact, as IPI reports, the state is projected to have roughly the same revenue in 2010 as it had in 2004. Kurokawa concludes that the problem is that “politicians’ wish lists have just gotten longer.”

The Land of Lincoln, unfortunately, is not alone in its spending woes. A study last year by The Pew Center on the States found that at least nine states, in addition to Illinois, are beset by dangerous economic conditions, brought on in part by budgetary spending gaps (in addition to growing unemployment, high foreclosure rates, difficulty in managing long-term fiscal matters and other factors.)

What solutions are politicians proposing in Illinois? IPI notes that, “Rather than addressing their spending addiction, many elected officials insist that the only way to solve the problem that they created is through raising taxes, further penalizing citizens.”

Perhaps a better way might be to start cutting spending and save the luaus and car races for later.