As Gov. Pat Quinn surveyed Madrid during his recent four-day trip to Spain, at least he had the satisfaction of knowing Illinois’ financial status was better than that of his hosts.
Spain’s finances are rocky, indeed. The country is in the midst of negotiating a 100 billion euro bank bailout plan with the European Union to prop up its troubled banks.
The government is struggling to reduce its budget deficit to about 3 percent of its annual economic output of $1.5 trillion. That will take cuts of $80 billion over the next 30 months, according to the Associated Press. Spain’s staggering 24.3 percent unemployment does not help matters any.
By contrast, Illinois’ government saw its revenue increase because of the January 2010 income tax increases signed by Quinn. Unemployment, while still high at 8.4 percent, has trended downward since the recession “ended” three years ago. The governor has cut a lot from the state budget and plans to close several prisons and other state agencies to save money.
Still, state government continues to spend more money than it takes in, vendors are owed $8 billion, and the state’s overall debt is in the multibillions.
Quinn said he took the unannounced trip to Spain to thank companies there for doing business with Illinois. The governor also hoped to drum up new business, particularly in the biotechnology and high-speed rail sectors.
In his talks with Spanish leaders, Quinn apparently found kindred spirits. Interestingly, the Spanish government announced tax hikes and spending cuts this week. Perhaps Quinn offered the Spaniards some advice.
And the governor paid his own way, although taxpayers ponied up for the expenses of two aides.
However, it wouldn’t have hurt for the governor to bring back the recipe for “the rain in Spain.” Drought-stricken Illinoisans could use it.