Perils of being a state employee
August 10, 2007
As faculty at University of Illinois at Chicago, I am an employee of the State of Illinois. I have adapted to being part of a government bureaucracy, but did not realize what it meant to have the State as your boss. Illinois had tremendous difficulty passing the State budget. The Senate only passed one proposal today. If it does not pass today, then we State employees do not get paid.
UofI President White had sent us emails telling us to continue working when the budget was not passed by July 31st. It seems so strange.
The budget crises reminds me of why it is important to make governance more accountable and compelling to people. There is no transparency in the Illinois budgeting process, and by bringing it up to the deadline for State workers to get paid, they reduce the likelihood of dissent. Who wants to be responsible for teachers not getting paid?
The budget includes no money for CTA, which seems short-sighted, given it is the lifeblood of the major city. They are wanting to propose a casino for Chicago which is a sin tax against the poor and middle classes who gamble, instead of raising taxes for everyone as part of the common good.
The pork barrel aspect of the budget is more complicated. Its about the allocation of money for local projects, which seems valid in that the legislators would know what local priorities exist and should have some discretion in funding them. There needs to be a rebranding of that practice in some ways. Yes, it gets abused, but the oversight should be on developing processes by which the priorities are decided, not on whether there should be funding provided.
But as Winston Churchill said, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."