You know who did this. So vote.

Monday, October 18, 2010

In a nobler world, each failed leader responsible for the Illinois death spiral would resign to, um, "devote more time to my family." Grateful beneficiaries of all their spending, borrowing and pension giveaways would fete them at farewell banquets. Some retiring pol might even admit: "We didn't set out to bury voters and their grandchildren in debt. But promising money we didn't have kept getting us re-elected, and we enjoyed wielding clout, and, hey, you know how it is here."

In short, officials in that nobler world would own their ruinous management. They would hold themselves accountable. That world, though, doesn't yet exist. So you and every other voter you know have to hold them accountable — and install a generation of change agents.

This state needs solutions, something the current crowd simply hasn't supplied. As Moody's Investors Service declared Oct. 5 after giving Illinois the lowest bond rating of the 50 states: "Illinois' challenges are more severe than the vast majority of other U.S. states, and it ranks at or near the bottom among states on most financial, debt and governance measures."

Blunt translation: The Great Recession hit all 50 states. But the incumbents who run Illinois have been outmanaged by officials of the other 49. These Illinois officials are not problem solvers. They delay and deny. They're all about survival.

We hope you'll demand better.

Over the next couple of weeks leading up to the Nov. 2 election, we plan to write about some of the key issues facing the state. Education reform. Ethics reform. Spending reform.

They all start with accountability. You can't expect to see better schools, efficient government or ethical leaders unless you hold those leaders accountable when they fail to deliver.

We said in a front-page editorial seven months ago that if House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton couldn't or wouldn't fix Illinois' finances, we would try to defeat the timid members of their caucuses. Since then, they have chosen not to offend public employee unions and other clouted interest groups by reforming how Illinois taxes and spends. They have postponed action on many new billions in taxation and borrowing until after you speak in this election.

Those selfish choices need to have consequences. Will you hold them to account?

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The endorsements below offer our best knowledge of which Republicans, Democrats and Greens are likely to change the catastrophic Illinois spiral of spending, job loss and debt. Grouse about lousy candidates in this race or that; the time for nominating other choices was the Feb. 2 primary. Just remember that, after Nov. 2, the victors will spend your tax dollars and determine government's impact on your family. By your thoughtful votes, your no-show laziness or your petulance — "I'm for None of the Above" — you will choose those victors. Please don't abuse and neglect the rest of us by refusing to vote.

Over time, neither major Illinois party has bathed itself in glory. Many incumbents we hope you'll fire are majority Democrats who haven't held their legislative leaders accountable. But we're also endorsing many Democrats who have pushed, or will push, for real reforms. We've tried to hold incumbents to these standards: What have you done to rescue Illinois from insolvency and corruption? What have you done to confront the entrenched powers that own this state?

By urging you to vote for candidates listed below, we're also urging you to reject some people you've elected in the past. Please, shove Illinois in a new direction — as far as you can get it from 38th in education performance, 46th in climate for employers, and … 48th in job creation.

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Our political elites hope to bail out Illinois with easy money — yours. They refuse to restructure their spending. They'd rather see you restructure, and send more in taxes to Springfield. Tell them and their members: No more taxation, no more debt, until you cut to the quick.

In a quarterly report, Comptroller Dan Hynes says Illinois has unpaid bills from March, and this year's deficit may top $15 billion: "Transfers out are up primarily due to the beginning of repayment for pension bonds issued last year."

Think about that. Gov. Pat Quinn and the legislative leaders slide debt from year to year. But that recklessness — with Illinois' low credit rating now raising by hundreds of millions the interest that taxpayers give to bond buyers — is compounding the cost.

You and your offspring must cover the politicians' billions in deficit spending, more billions in borrowing, and some $130 billion in unfunded retirement obligations. Blame much of that on the unspoken deal the pols offer the unions: If you help re-elect us, we'll give you decent salaries today — and lavish retirement benefits tomorrow.

So state workers get paid promptly while the people who care for our disabled and sick fellow citizens wait months for their checks. To echo a point we made in endorsing Sen. Bill Brady for governor:

Pat Quinn is relentlessly starving clout-poor social services so he can protect the jobs and benefits of his union supporters. That's a raw injustice.

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It's game time. Early voting has begun.

The pols responsible for the Illinois death spiral trust that you won't hold them accountable.

But you know who did this. So vote.