Could Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan even agree at this point on the color of the sky?
Given how compromise isn’t either one’s strong suit, we doubt it. And it’s unconscionable, given the state’s precarious financial shape, that we continue to wait for a true leader to emerge.
We need a person who cares more about getting things done than having a title in front of his or her name, who can work with an opposing political party on solutions that put the people first.
Madigan and Rauner have fallen short on being true leaders due to their unwillingness to seek common ground, although we note that Rauner once had 44 items on his turnaround agenda. He’s down to just a handful now. They seem more preoccupied with the thought of scoring personal one-upmanships on each other than taking care of the state’s 12.8 million residents. The other three legislative leaders — House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno — are complicit to various degrees, but when it’s time for a showdown, the main event is Madigan vs. Rauner.
Case in point: Lawmakers are scheduled to return Tuesday for the second week of this year’s veto session. They might actually tackle some legislation. But we have little faith they will accomplish the one task that desperately needs to be done – pass a budget for the last six months of the fiscal year.
All we have seen so far is more political posturing between the two. The result is more of the same: Without a budget we’re back to court orders and consent decrees to determine who gets paid, and they can return to their support bases with the appearance of not giving in to the other.
They need to get over themselves. They are jeopardizing services many in the state need by caring more about their respective party’s dominance than the lives of Illinoisans.
And yet … it seems that there is no sense of urgency from the majority of Illinois residents that they come to resolution. Perhaps it’s because this time there isn’t a potentially dire situation that will affect millions. In June, there was the threat of schools not opening for the start of the 2016-17 academic year if a budget wasn’t approved. That resulted in a six-month budget that expires Dec. 31. But K-12 education was funded for the year, so that pressure isn’t there.
We fear not having a budget has become the norm, and because the vast majority of people haven’t been personally touched by the lack of one, they feel no need to urge action.
That is unacceptable.
We need outrage. We need phone calls made and letters written and protests organized. And we need it from all corners of the state, and from people not directly affected by the budget woes. We see it from the social service agencies, small businesses and higher education institutions that rely on state funding. They are pleading for a resolution, because they don’t want to go back to the year of no budget (July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016) and all the horrors that included, such as layoffs, serving fewer clients, or in some extreme cases, shutting down. We need it from everyone now.
It’s not too late for either Rauner or Madigan to do the right thing. Absent that, the rank-and-file legislators need to raise hell and get more involved. They need to be willing to sacrifice the monetary security Madigan and Rauner provide during campaigns to those they consider allies in favor of the greater good. They need to demand to be part of the budget process. It should no longer be solely hammered out by the leaders in private conversations with the governor. Not when we’re again on the edge of not having a fiscal blueprint for a significant amount of time. This is the public’s business, and it’s time it is done in the light.
It takes courage to take risks. The political posturing that got the state into financial mayhem cannot continue. Illinois is in dire need of some courageous outrage, and we implore residents and lawmakers to stand up.