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Fixing Illinois

Politics and Policy in the Prairie State

James D Nowlan

Publication Year: 2014

Persistent problems have left Illinois the butt of jokes and threatened it with fiscal catastrophe. In Fixing Illinois, James D. Nowlan and J. Thomas Johnson use their four decades of experience as public servants, Springfield veterans, and government observers to present a comprehensive program of almost one hundred specific policy ideas aimed at rescuing the state from its long list of problems.Nowlan and Johnson start with the history of how one of the most prosperous states of the 1950s became a present-day mess riven by debt and discord and increasingly abandoned by both businesses and citizens. Among their more than ninety proposals to restore Illinois to greatness:An overhaul of state pension systems that includes more reasonable benefits and lengthening of the retirement age, among other changes;Reducing one of the nation's highest corporate tax rates to attract business;Medicare reform through an insurance voucher program;Demanding that schools raise expectations for success, particularly in rural and impoverished urban areas;A new approach to higher education that includes a market-driven system that puts funds in the hands of students rather than institutions;Broadening of the tax base to include services and reduction in rates;The creation of a long-term plan to maintain the state's five-star transportation infrastructure;Raising funds with capital construction bonds to update and integrate the antiquated information systems used by state agencies;Uprooting the state's entrenched culture of corruption via public financing of elections, redistricting reform, and revolving door prohibitions for lawmakersPointed, honest, and pragmatic, Fixing Illinois is a plan for effective and honest government that seeks an even nobler end: restoring our faith in Illinois's institutions and reviving a sense of citizenship and state pride.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

The purpose of this small book is to contribute to a rebuilding of public confidence and trust in Illinois governments, in particular, its state government. The book is an overview of Illinois and its government by two fellows who have each participated in and observed Illinois policymaking for more than four decades. Our book takes a look back, discusses the present...

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Introduction. The Future of Illinois

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pp. 1-6

When we were boys growing up in small-town Illinois in the 1950s, life was good, and getting better. Crops on the farms around us were growing in size each year, and we saw trucks go through town loaded with hogs or cattle, headed for the sprawling Chicago Stock Yards, then to be cut into bacon and steaks at the great meat packers in the city...

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Chapter 1. The Changing Faces of Illinois

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pp. 7-20

The late North Carolina governor Terry Sanford once lamented that there is no one in the governor’s office whose only job is to gaze out the window and brood about the problems of the future.1 So it is in Illinois. Unfortunately, Illinois doesn’t know where it is going. There is no planning agency within...

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Chapter 2. Fixing Past Budgeting Sins

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pp. 21-38

Persistent annual state budget deficits in the early twenty-first century and huge unfunded liabilities in our state pension systems have made Illinois a symbol of dereliction of fiscal responsibilities. That is why we make budgeting the first substantive chapter of this book. This chapter provides an overview of our fiscal system, discusses the major causes of the deficits the state has...

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Chapter 3. Upgrading Education

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pp. 39-60

Education is arguably the most important function of state and local governments. The schools and universities provide the foundation on which the success or failure of society rests. This chapter begins with an overview of the scope, organization, and recent performance of K–12 education in Illinois...

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Chapter 4. Improving Human Services and Health Care

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pp. 61-77

Illinois provides direct social and healthcare services to more than 3.5 million of the state’s 12.8 million residents, more than one in four. Specific numbers are unavailable because the state’s four major human service and healthcare agencies, and major divisions within agencies as well...

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Chapter 5. Economic Development for Stability

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pp. 78-98

The Illinois economy is struggling. The state’s finances are a shambles of debt and unfunded obligations. In April 2013 the state’s unemployment rate was 9.3 percent, worst among all the states except Nevada.1 From the employment peak of November 2000, Illinois lost 655,700 jobs and had regained only 192,000 of those jobs by March 2013.2 The state’s image has been...

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Chapter 6. Transportation: Maintaining Our Greatest Strength

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pp. 99-116

Over the course of writing this book, we asked close observers of Illinois about the state’s greatest strengths, and our transportation infrastructure was most frequently at the top of the list. Though Illinois has long enjoyed a competitive edge due to its mature and diverse transportation system, that edge cannot be taken for granted as other U.S. hubs and other countries...

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Chapter 7. Reengineering Our Governments

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pp. 117-134

As noted in chapter 2, even if Illinois maintains the income tax increases of 2011, the state is still projected to run a deficit of about $2 billion per year, according to the respected Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. Simply to reduce spending on what we do at...

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Chapter 8. Corruption in Illinois: An Enduring Tradition

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pp. 135-148

Corruption has been an enduring habit in Illinois and Chicago governments throughout the state’s history. And habits are hard to break.
In this chapter we discuss the realities and perceptions of this corruption and the costs the perceptions impose on Illinois.1 We also offer observations about and options for transforming the culture of corruption that we believe...


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pp. 149-170

Bibliographical Notes

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pp. 171-174


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pp. 175-180

About the Authors, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252096358
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252079962

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2014