Steve Chapman on a Presidential Library Boondoggle in Illinois


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To say that California is in better fiscal condition than Illinois is like saying the captain of the Exxon Valdez grades out higher than the guy at the helm of the Titanic, notes Steve Chapman. Disasters come in different doses. One study found that California ranks 46th in the health of its state government finances, with Illinois limping in at 48th place.

So imagine the surprise in the Land of Lincoln to learn that California Gov. Jerry Brown plans to create a rainy-day fund for future downturns. He's expecting large budget surpluses, which he wants to use to restore long-term fiscal health rather than squander on short-term demands.

In Illinois, there is no danger that extra cash will be squandered, because there is no extra cash. But state legislators know you can't be too careful. So they are considering approving $100 million for the Barack Obama Presidential Library. Without that promise, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan fears, the president might put his monument somewhere else—Hawaii or New York or maybe Nairobi.