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For what it’s worth, now is your chance to tell Gov. Pat Quinn how to balance the state’s budget.

He is asking for it — literally — with his budget Web site:

The portion that allows Illinoisans to “suggest a solution” to the budget mess has a suggestion of its own: Look at the “Budget Basics” section and the frequently asked questions before submitting a solution to the budget problem.

We will save you some time by noting the last entry in the FAQ section: “Can’t the state cut its way out of this budget mess?”

The reply: “The simple answer is no.” It goes on to say the ability to cut $11 billion from the budget is limited by the Constitution, federal and state laws and court orders.

Of course, there are no “simple” answers to anything related to the Illinois budget. But even if the state can’t “cut its way out,” it certainly can and should make cuts before asking individuals and businesses to turn over more of their hard-earned dollars through increased taxes.

The governor’s Web site also refers to the “Four Pillars of Fiscal Recovery.” Perhaps they are not intended to be in order of priority, but it’s worth noting that “continue to cut spending” is listed third. At least it is ahead of “revenue enhancements.”

The first “pillar” is requesting continued federal financial help; the second is more borrowing.

Among the problems with embracing tax increases — or “revenue enhancements” — before adequate spending cuts are made is that higher taxes are likely to trigger more spending, not greater frugality.

Illinois is not the only state with severe financial problems. Yet the National Governors Association winter meeting in Washington, D.C., got a nice turnout last weekend. How many aides and security officials did they bring with them? Quinn was among those attending. We don’t know how many other governors attended because when the NGA press office was asked, its e-mail response said 55 governors were invited (50 states and five territories) and we would have to contact each governor’s office to find out whether they attended. 

The overall cost for each state might be the proverbial drop in the bucket, but it’s the type of thing that must be scaled back if Illinois expects to climb out of its budget hole.

Illinois needs to focus on its core responsibilities — education, roads, health care for the needy. It needs to cut out superfluous items. And it needs to listen to its citizens.

Now is your chance. Send your ideas to the governor and see how many show up in his budget address on March 10.


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