If California Is America's Greece, What Is Illinois?

American anti-austerity movement gets big boost in blue states


Matt Welch and I have both analyzed California's total conversion into a single-party state, the November election having given Democrats veto-proof majorities in both houses of the state legislature.

But Illinois voters, too, have handed their state government pretty much entirely over to the Democrats. Arguably, Illinois also happens to be a state in even worse fiscal shape than California. Reuters' reporting of the state's new normal doesn't give much hope for austerity from the left there:

Illinois Democratic lawmakers, facing the state's own version of the fiscal cliff, are expected to use their newly won veto-proof majority in the legislature to solve the state's impending financial crisis with permanently higher tax rates on personal income and corporations.

Illinois, like California, on Tuesday elected a Democratic supermajority. The outcome was thanks mainly to the handiwork of powerful state House Speaker Michael Madigan, who deftly drew new districts to favor Democrats following the 2010 U.S. Census.

Illinois, also like California, has one of the lowest debt ratings among the states.

It faces an even worse financial future unless the legislature acts quickly to make permanent the tax increases passed by Democrats in 2011, takes steps to cut spending and reforms the creaking state pension systems.

There's nothing else in the story that indicates spending cuts or pension reform are actually coming. On Thursday, Gov. Pat Quinn said he's considering more bond sales to deal with the state's $6.5 billion in unpaid bills.

And those temporary tax increases? How did those do for Illinois?

The estimated $7.5 billion raised by the 2011 tax increases was quickly gobbled up by the state's annual pension payments, according to Dan Long, executive director of the Illinois Legislature's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.

But you can bet those tax increases were sold to Illinois voters as vital to preserving public services.

Quinn's Administration wants the legislature to tackle pension reform in January. But like Gov. Jerry Brown in California, Quinn really isn't calling the shots anymore. Illinois and California's anti-austerity movements appear to be picking up steam. So which of them is Greece and which of them is Spain?