As the first week of 2011 unfolds, the Illinois Legislature is facing a huge budgetary crisis: it is $13 billion in the red, and this includes over $6 million of unpaid bills.  If Illinois were a person, it would be getting a lot of bill collector phone calls. 

In fact,Illinois is in very, very bad financial straits: its credit rating ties with California as being the lowest in the country, and Moody’s Investor Service gives Illinois a negative rating on its financial forecast.  Which means things are very bad up Chicago way, and the Illinois Legislature has some very difficult budget decisions to make.  Things like cutting child care, increasing tuitions. 

Which brings them to the death penalty. 

The Illinois House has a bill before it, moving to abolish the death penalty.  Of course, there is growing opposition – particularly among prosecutors.  They are planning a big press conference this week – and the state attorneys are working hard, drumming up public support for keeping things status quo, capital punishment-wise.

Meanwhile,opponents of capital punishment are telling the media today that they think they have the votes to make the bill into law.  There’s a window of opportunity for the bill to pass which changes later in the month.

This is politics – and politics in the state where Chicago resides – so only time will tell whether or not abolishing the death penalty will indeed happen in the State of Illinois, no one is considering this as anything but a fight at this juncture.

The Perfect Storm for a Finance Fight

However, given the dire straits that the State of Illinois faces, if there is ever a situation where financial arguments could kill the death penalty, this may be it.  The Perfect Storm may exist in Springfield, Illinois, this month. 

Currently, there are 10 people on Illinois Death Row.  However, the Illinois Governor imposed a moratorium on executions in the state, so executions are not occurring.  Prosecutors are free to seek the death penalty in their cases, of course: that hasn’t changed. 

Let’s see what happens.