Illinois lawmakers’ budget impasse needs quick fix – Daily Southtown – Chicago Tribune

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If Illinois lawmakers’ inaction, bickering and stubbornness wasn’t so sad and pathetic, we’d be laughing.

While he was referencing the verbal feud between Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner, Chance the Rapper may have provided an eloquent summation of the entire Illinois budget debacle with his recent tweet: “This whole (expletive) thing is embarrassing to be honest.”

Hear! Hear!

Illinois lawmakers’ refusal to do their jobs and pass a state budget has real victims. As lawmakers play politics and dawdle, real people are bearing the brunt of the gridlock.

Their inaction is causing Illinois students of all ages and grade levels to be among those caught in the political crossfire.

Across the state, public universities have navigated the budget impasse by cutting jobs, imposing furlough days and slashing programs, among other things. School officials say they’ve about cut to the quick.

Governors State University has announced a tuition increase of 15 percent, along with plans to cut 22 degrees. Northeastern Illinois University, meanwhile, just announced 1,100 employees will be taking unpaid furlough days, and about 300 student aides will find themselves unemployed during that time.

That’s on top of GSU losing 70 percent of its state funding in the first year of the budget stalemate. Last year, the school’s state funding amounted to half of what it normally receives.

A full year of undergraduate classes will be increasing by more than $1,200 to about $9,390, officials said.

And it’s not just GSU and Northeastern who are grappling with financial woes. So are public schools across the state.

The Chicago Public Schools system is more than $200 million in the hole.

How’s this good for Illinois, exactly?

Earlier this week, Rauner accused Democrats, led by House Speaker Michael Madigan, of taking part in a “coordinated activity” aimed at causing a crisis that will halt state government. We wish we could accuse Rauner and state lawmakers of coordinating their activities, but in an effort aimed at ending Illinois’ political embarrassment.

Madigan’s longtime spokesman fired back, saying the governor’s claims were “delusional babble” made out of desperation. Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the attorney general weighed in saying that Rauner needs to “stop the baseless finger-pointing and do his job.”

Agreed. But he’s not the only one.

Enough’s enough. One-line zingers may seem cool to the parties who are lobbing them, but they don’t get us anywhere. Nor do they seem so cool to the rest of us who’ve had to endure this drivel.

Ridiculous demands and stubborn obstructionism haven’t gotten us anywhere.

Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno valiantly tried and failed to reach a so-called “grand bargain,” but Republicans derailed the plan.

Each day without a budget is costing the state about $11 million. That’s not a drop in the bucket. That’s real money, and it adds up. Fast.

Without a budget deal soon, GSU President Elaine Maimon says, more cuts could be on the horizon.

GSU is still planning to pay for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants, which help out low-income students, Maimon said.

“We put students first at Governors State,” she told the Daily Southtown.

We wish Illinois legislators felt the same way.

The Southtown recently spoke with a 26-year-old single mother who’s attending classes in health administration about the financial strain the GSU tuition hike will cause her.

“I’m a single mother, so it’s a burden,” she said. “It’s going to push me back a little bit, but I’m going to have to work around it, I guess.”

If she can work around it, lawmakers can work through their differences and do what’s right for the state. Now.

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March 10, 2017 at 08:33PM

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Illinois lawmakers’ budget impasse needs quick fix – Daily Southtown – Chicago Tribune

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