Illinois state government wastes hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars

By Ben VanMetre | Sep 17, 2013

Illinois spending is packed with waste.

Nearly 200 examples of wasteful government spending in Illinois, totaling more than $354 million, is detailed in the “The 2012 Illinois Piglet Book,” a report compiled by the Illinois Policy Institute in a partnership with Washington, D.C.-based Citizens Against Government Waste.

Each item highlights the decisions of politicians who have lost sight of the core services they were put in place to provide.

Piglet 2012 reveals that state and local governments paid for everything from $9,941 for “Speedy-the-Turtle” bobbleheads to $200,000 customized eco-friendly zip lines to a $2,261,009 cable TV bill for prison inmates to get their weekly fill of Seacrest and Snooki.

Other examples of waste come in the form of grants, subsidies and special tax treatment for businesses, along with handouts for nonprofits and associations.

The process of wasteful spending in Illinois is often described as a “shell game.” It’s nearly impossible to follow the money as it flows from consumers, entrepreneurs and businesses to government and then to politically favored recipients.

The shell game allows politicians to pick winners, leaving the losers to pick up the tab. Targeted spending of this sort distorts behavior, creates disincentives for entrepreneurship and fosters incentives for the special-interest class – buoyed by lobbyists – to seek government handouts.

When government officials waste the money they collect from hardworking Illinoisans, they disrespect the value of the taxpayers and their money.

Each dollar of waste feeds the growing culture of cronyism and satisfaction with failed governance in Illinois. The state’s current culture replaces essential government services with efforts to bring home special handouts and to build success from favors and backdoor deals. Unfortunately, politicians in Illinois don’t know how to set priorities.

The money they are wasting is real, the lost economic activity is real and the families in Illinois struggling to keep up with the state’s ever-increasing taxes are real. The waste means lost opportunities, wasted energy and foregone prosperity. The results sap liberty from the residents, entrepreneurs and communities that want to move this great state forward.

Some of the most outrageous examples of state and local wasteful spending in Illinois include:

  • $5 million for the Illinois state fair

  • $3.34 million for the Sparta World Shooting and Recreation Complex

  • $2.26 million on cable TV for inmates

  • $2.37 million for the construction of a 3-D downtown cinema in Granite City

  • $1 million to the city of Chicago for electric vehicle charging infrastructure

  • $750,000 on a new government shrubbery program

  • $200,000 to Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour Inc. for the development of “eco-friendly customized zip lines”

  • $124,720 to the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority of Navy Pier to host the Lego Kid Fest Chicago at McCormick Place

  • $75,000 to Chicago Football Classic Inc. for a three-day event that included the Chicago Football Classic game at Soldier Field

  • $9,941 for Springfield Park District bobbleheads

  • $20,489 to Swine-time Pig Racing in Rock Island County.

Ben VanMetre is Senior Budget and Tax Policy Analyst for Illinois Policy Institute. 

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City of Chicago Illinois Policy Institute

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