In April of 1999, Caterpillar stock closed at $32 and change. This Friday, 10 years later, Cat stock closed at $31.94. More layoffs are being considered. Caterpillar suppliers locally have cut their workforces drastically and some face an uncertain future.
In the year 2002, Caterpillar committed to building a $40 million dollar Visitors Center, a center they had prospered for decades without. The commitment to build came with strings attached: Peoria commits to build a Regional Museum and then Caterpillar will build.
What Regional Museum? The Museum Committee thought glossy fliers and TV ads would bring the other surrounding communities in with money. To my knowledge, they raised hardly a dime from any other public governmental body. Except for the $14 million from the City of Peoria, not even in Peoria County.
That was then and now is now. Year 2009 may shape up to be the worst year for this economy since the Depression days. Already long lines are forming to apply for small numbers of job openings in many parts of the country. Almost all experts say it will get worse. Asset values of ownership has shrunk by over 7 trillion dollars, and that is just in the private sector, and is still shrinking. Some community leaders are saying, not in Peoria, at least not like in California or New York. Maybe, because some local leaders really don't know. Things are happening so fast with such severeness, it is difficult to keep up. Just because sales taxes are only slightly lower, does not reflect the merchandise sold below costs and the businesses, restaurants, etc., that go out of business every week.
Reports do not show what individuals have lost on their pensions, bonuses, frozen or reduced salaries, lost jobs, not the least what they have lost in property value and investments. The stimulus plan laden with special interests and earmarks, despite Obama's pledge that the bill would include no earmarks, is temporary because it is a SPENDING bill that has to be repaid later with taxpayer dollars. Otherwise, we will become a bankrupt nation.
Government employees and administrators are the last to feel an economic crunch. They have built in raises, fixed pensions, guarantied vacations and time off for everything from "illness" to child care to holidays. Or if in elected management, just don't show up for work. Who is going to report their absence? And it looks like the stimulus bill is going to expand mostly government jobs.
I have many times written that those who have the money and security and want non-priority amenities, let them step forward and do the funding. The rest of us will pay the admission when and if we want to go see what their money has contributed.
This museum thing has dragged too long. The private sector did not step forward as promised. It didn't develop into a Regional Museum. To stick the taxpayer with more taxes for a guaranteed revenue loser is beyond the scope of good common sense. I ask Jim Owens to step forward and say Caterpillar will not build an evidently "really not needed" visitors center until the economy is running again at full throttle. Let the museum people take the rest of the money they were going to use for "promotions" to fill in the hole, plant the trees and grass, have the donors move their money to an outdoor winter ice skating rink and a summertime outdoor skateboard park.
Caterpillar can then spend their money to rehire some laid off workers and build stockholder values. They owe that common sense to this community. We are all sorry that the economy went to pot. It may be quite a while coming back. But more taxes are guaranteed.
Read some of my older blogs like "Projections Missed in Peoria" and new taxes on the horizon. $0.25 tax adds up to over $3,000,000 a year that can't be spent with local merchants.