Illinois Without Budget as Session Adjourns

***Guest Column***

Spring session ended on Tuesday, and with it ends any chance of a balanced budget in the foreseeable future. This week, the Governor and Republicans offered concessions, but Speaker Madigan refused to allow any discussion of a compromise.

We made several attempts, and one of my colleagues went as far as to stand on the House floor and ask everyone who was willing to work on a budget to stand up. Everyone on the Republican side rose, but Democrats (For fear of reprisal) mostly remained seated. To me, that sums up the entirety of the Spring Session. We tried to get things done, but it became abundantly clear that House leadership had no interest in passing a budget.


On the last day of session, not one of our budget solutions was called to a vote. Instead, the other side passed bailouts for the Chicago pension system – you read that correctly. Have you ever listened to the flight attendant’s safety briefing on a commercial flight? You hear something along the lines of, “If the cabin were to lose pressure, first secure your air mask on your face and then secure your child’s after yours.” So, if you yourself are well, then you are better positioned to help others. Perhaps we should apply the same logic to fixing our own finances before we talk about bailing out Chicago.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a serious problem. Without a budget, K-12 schools aren’t going to open on time, seniors will continue to lose their services, and childcare centers won’t receive funding. We can’t wait any longer for a budget, but Speaker Madigan knows it is in his best interest to wait until after the November election. Here is why:

Governor Rauner suggests that we could make common sense changes to the way our government works, and those changes would save the State of Illinois enough money to balance our budget. However, according to the Speaker (Who has been in Springfield for 45 years), our state government works like a well-oiled machine – so let’s expand it!

Have you ever been stuck for hours waiting in uncomfortable, plastic chairs at the DMV? If so, then I’m sure you are aware; the State of Illinois is anything but a well-oiled machine. In their “budget” this month, House leadership proposed expanding the Illinois state government’s responsibilities and adding $7 billion to the deficit. By the way, I put budget in quotes because, as a business owner, I know that a budget is only a budget if expenses do not exceed revenue.

This scenario (If the Speaker has his way) requires floating the $7 billion, and waiting to raise taxes to pay for it until after the election. Meanwhile, schools will not open on time this fall and they get to point the finger at the Governor and tell Illinoisans that everything is his fault. As the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board put it: “Ever hear the one about the man who kills his parents, then throws himself on the mercy of the court, whimpering that now he's an orphan?”

The fact is, Governor Rauner has repeatedly said in public that he is willing to work with Democrats to pass a responsible, balanced budget. The other side has consistently snubbed his efforts, because for Speaker Madigan to succeed, Governor Rauner needs to be perceived as the problem.

Looking ahead, the House leadership and the Governor say that we should remain optimistic. In all honesty, I am so disappointed that it is difficult for me to be optimistic about anything. The Speaker’s decisions to call Chicago bailout bills for the last 48 hours of session was in very poor taste, and if it is any indication of his intentions for this continuous session, then I believe I am right to withhold optimism.

This past month has been a bad joke on the people of the State of Illinois. Hopefully next week I can report back to you with better news and it also brings to mind a quote by President Ronald Reagan who said “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” 

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815/232-0774 or e-mail us at repstewart@gmail.com. You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or on Facebook.