There are less than two weeks left of the current fiscal year and again the legislature’s day in Springfield was cancelled by Speaker Madigan. We are told that the Working Groups are making progress, but in reality, the State of Illinois cannot wait any longer. If we do not agree to a financial plan in the next week, our state will enter its second year without a budget.
It is unacceptable that the two parties have not been able to reach a compromise over the past 24 months. What is even more unacceptable is that it appears the Speaker intends to do nothing before the November election. Seniors, students, schools, mental health facilities, healthcare facilities and our prisons desperately need state assistance. Without a budget, our schools will not open this fall. Our mental health facilities will close their doors. Healthcare facilities will lay off workers. Our prisons will run out of food and the lights will go out. This is no time to play politics. This is time for the Speaker to allow us to do our jobs and serve the people who send us to Springfield.
As I stated last week, there are two bills that are fully-funding solutions to the issues stated above. This was not our first choice, but we have been advocating for a comprehensive balanced budget from Day 1. These proposals are temporary, but give us the time to reach an agreement. This is the most responsible response to our current situation. Let’s keep the lights on and keep the schools open. The taxpayers didn’t cause our financial turmoil and they should not be the ones to bear the brunt of its consequences. How can the Speaker say that he advocates for our schools when he holds them hostage? That is like a bank robber saying, “Sorry hostages, but I’m doing this for your own good”. All of this is happening for Chicago taxpayers who do not want to pay more for their schools. Heaven forbid Chicago has to actually pay for the outrageous benefits that they promise their employees. Heaven forbid they have to raise their property taxes up from the lowest in the State of Illinois. This state is bigger than the City of Chicago. Our kids in Northwest Illinois are just as important as the kids in Chicago. They do not deserve to pay the consequences of Chicago’s mismanagement and yet they are being held hostage by Chicago Democrats until the state has a complete government shutdown and absolute chaos. It is more than disappointing. It is repulsive.
The Speaker is striking fear into every citizen of this state. This nation was founded on the notion that the government should work for the people, not hold them hostage. My constituents are not leverage. This hostage negotiation needs to stop.
Looking ahead, I will keep fighting for our government to stay open.
The House Republicans have introduced comprehensive budgets in the past year, not 40 billion dollar spending plans, but budgets that were realistic and paid for. None of them were ever let out of Rules Committee by Speaker Madigan. Instead of stomping our feet while Rome burns; we have offered stopgap solutions to fund essential State human services while a “Grand Bargain” is negotiated. After it was clear that there would not be budget talks on the last day of Spring Session, we introduced a budget bridge package to get emergency funds to the agencies and organizations that depend on state appropriations. The bridge would supply agencies with enough money to survive until January 1, 2017.
The most important fact about this package is the state can actually appropriate the funds and it would not require a tax increase. Although it is only a temporary solution, it is not an empty promise or a check that will bounce; there is money to pay for it. It is not politically controversial; it is just the right thing to do. Right now, the fate of Illinoisans rests with one man: Speaker Michael Madigan.
This continuing impasse reminds me of a quote from former Illinois State Representative and now U.S. Congressman Mike Bost, “I feel like somebody trying to be released from Egypt! Let my people go!"
As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815/232-0774 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or on Facebook.