June 5, 2015
"The out-of-balance budget you passed keeps level funding for the (Democrat-run) General Assembly, the (Democratic) attorney general and the (Democratic) secretary of state while cutting the (Republican) governor and the (Republican) comptroller by 10 percent. We are willing to do our part — why won't you?"
— Richard Goldberg, Gov. Bruce Rauner's deputy chief of staff, to majority Democrats on an Illinois House appropriations committee, June 4, 2015
Good question, Mr. Goldberg, and we offer an answer straight from the escalating war for Illinois, a mighty struggle between yesterday and tomorrow:
This state's failed yesterday stands humiliated by its debts, its unemployment, its pension fiasco and all the rest. But the architects of that yesterday still can try to thwart a better tomorrow — an Illinois that competes for jobs, that balances budgets, that chooses political leaders who look out for the public interest.
We hope two creators of that sorry yesterday — House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton — don't defeat a rookie governor who demands real reforms before he signs off on a budget. And we aren't alone:
Reform and budget negotiations should not be separated, as Madigan wants. There's no better time to discuss one because it affects the other. ... You don't have to buy into everything Rauner wants to acknowledge that Illinois must change to have a competitive economy in the 21st century.
— Rockford Register Star
As that realization spreads among voters, the Democratic leaders cling to their tattered playbook: Obstruct, obfuscate, change the subject. Madigan tried to pass off as reform a workers' compensation proposal that any fair-minded citizen would dismiss as a sop to his check-writing pals, the trial lawyers. And members of Cullerton's caucus, looking oblivious to the fact that Illinois is broke and employers are fleeing, floated their "ambitious economic agenda" — tuition-free community college, a new higher education tax credit, mandated sick time pay, five annual increases in the state minimum wage ... as if to wheedle, "Voters, ignore our mess. Look over here at all we want to give you!"
Who is the real champion of the middle class? A legislature seemingly bent on playing the same old game that has driven Illinois into the ground? Or a governor who really has no enthusiasm for cutting heat subsidies for the poor, and who is prepared to raise taxes when all is said and done, but who understands that Illinois is in desperate need of more fundamental reform?
— Chicago Sun-Times
Expect this legislative showboating to continue as the Democratic leaders try to portray themselves as eager compromisers. Madigan publicly admitted that Democrats "don't have the money to pay for this budget." The two leaders also fiercely oppose term limits, tort reform and Rauner's other proposals. While the governor has narrowed his agenda, the leaders have only hardened their silos and intensified their attacks.
(B)y most accounts Rauner moved far more than Madigan & Co. did in this session, which in the latter case is to say not at all.
— Peoria Journal Star
The Democrats' strategy is to have citizens who rely on state money pressure the governor to spend and tax more — but not to cut government overhead or enact reforms that might attract new employers. Yet Rauner isn't buckling. Instead, he has told his Cabinet members that they must prepare their agencies for "the very real possibility" that as of July 1 they'll have to operate without a budget. He also announced what his office says are $400 million in spending cuts, a down payment on making state government's expenditures match its income. Owing to fixes of the intentionally unbalanced budget that Madigan and Cullerton passed in 2014, Rauner's office expects the current fiscal year to conclude June 30 with its budget in balance. As for the next fiscal year: "With the upcoming Madigan-Cullerton budget deficit more than double that of last year, a midyear solution is not a possibility this time. The administration must immediately begin taking steps to manage state spending," the governor's office said Tuesday. "... Many additional steps will be announced as they are finalized."
Illinois can't continue as it has for decades. Deficit spending to feed an entrenched influential class can't persist. Don't take it from us. The voters spoke loud and clear last year when they ousted former Gov. Pat Quinn.
— The Southern Illinoisan, Carbondale
Not that Madigan, Cullerton and others beholden to that entrenched influential class will easily admit the mayhem they've wrought, or accept the stark consequences: The people of this state voted for a new direction. The Greek philosopher Diogenes, searching for an honest pol, could scour Springfield and not hear the words, "All in all, my tenure has been just a disaster for Illinois."
Illinois is at a crossroads. Will it change its fiscally irresponsible ways or cling desperately to a status quo approach that has reduced it to effective bankruptcy. A big, potentially ugly fight looms, but it's a fight worth having.
— The News-Gazette, Champaign
Yes, the war for Illinois is worth having. May the failed yesterday that got us here yield to a competitive, thriving tomorrow.