Illinois is now in its 10th month of budget gridlock. The state owes $111 billion on its pensions. Last year, Illinois lost 105,000 people on net to other states, and the Land of Lincoln is the only state in the region with a shrinking population.
But politicians may be close to taking action – on bobcat pelts.
State Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, has introduced a bill he believes would remove any financial incentive Illinoisans might have to hunt these animals. Senate Bill 2143 would make it illegal for anyone to “knowingly sell, offer for sale, or purchase a bobcat pelt of a bobcat taken in [Illinois].” The bill would also ban the trapping of bobcats. SB 2143 passed out of committee April 7 and now heads to the Illinois Senate.
Bobcats were removed from the state’s threatened-species list in 1999 due to the dramatic recovery of their population. And Gov. Bruce Rauner in July 2015 signed into law a bill reversing Illinois’ 40-year ban on hunting bobcats. The law limits each hunter who obtains a permit to one bobcat during the season. For the 2016-2017 hunting season, when the law will take effect, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, plans to make available 500 bobcat permits.
Aside from the fact that it’s unlikely there’s a large market for Illinois bobcat pelts, which fetch about $40 a piece, as well as the fact that DNR has said SB 2143’s proposed ban would result in the needless waste of animal skins, the bigger problem with the proposed legislation is that it distracts from the critical problems facing the state.
Illinois’ government-worker pensions are the worst-funded in the nation. The state urgently needs reforms to fix these ailing pension systems.
The out-migration of people and businesses has left Illinois with a shrinking population and dim prospects for many workers, especially those in blue-collar industries. Illinoisans desperately need their lawmakers to enact reforms that would make the state attractive to employers, especially those that provide solid, well-paying jobs for lower-income and middle-class workers.
And given the onerous tax burdens already imposed on Illinois residents, the state needs its elected officials to pass a balanced budget without resorting to hiking taxes without any real reforms.
With Illinois’ many serious problems – and the numerous opportunities for lawmakers to pass meaningful reforms that result in fundamental and lasting improvements – Illinoisans cannot afford for their representatives to spend time on relatively minor matters while putting off making critical changes.