The Pantagraph

Work won't wait for outcome of governor's race

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Considering the squeaky close elections state Sen. Bill Brady has won in the past, it’s natural that he is not ready to throw in the towel in his race against incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn.

After all, he started his political career with an eight-vote win over incumbent then-state Rep. Gordon Ropp in the 1992 Republican primary.

And less than 200 votes were the margin of victory in this spring’s Republican primary that put him into the race against Quinn — who also had a narrow win over fellow Democrat Dan Hynes in the Democratic primary.

Therefore, unless there is a mathematical impossibility of closing the — according to unofficial, incomplete results — 8,300-vote gap out of more than 3.3 million ballots cast, it makes sense to wait until the results are official and include a tally of all absentee ballots. That includes ballots from military personnel, thousands of which were sent out after the deadline set by federal law.

But while the victory parties may be put on hold, the work of the state won’t wait. Frankly, it’s waited too long already. Lawmakers and Quinn put off fully addressing the major financial problems facing the state until after the election. That day has arrived.

Lawmakers will convene in Springfield today to consider legislation authorizing Quinn to borrow up to $4.1 billion to pay the state’s share of this year’s pension contribution. The House approved the plan to sell bonds, but the Senate adjourned without taking action. A three-fifths majority is needed to proceed with the plan.

While the state clearly is obligated to keep up with its contributions to the employee pension systems, borrowing more than $4 billion, especially with the state’s poor bond rating, will be an expensive endeavor.

Lawmakers, Quinn and the next governor — whether Quinn or Brady — need to look beyond borrowing as the answer to the state’s problems and take serious steps to bring spending under control and reform the policies that helped drive the state into this financial ditch.

One thing didn’t change on Election Day. Illinois remains about $15 billion in debt — and no amount of counting and recounting will change that.

Meanwhile, for all those who stayed home on Election Day because they didn’t think their vote mattered, keep in mind that the margin separating Quinn and Brady amounts to about one vote per precinct. Think about that.