Last week, lawmakers in Springfield managed to come together just enough to pass a stopgap budget to make sure the state keeps on rolling through the end of the year. Schools won’t have to worry for a little while and we can make sure the roundabout construction in town is finished on time. Great right?
Not so fast…
The “budget” the politicians passed address none of the fundamental financial problems our state faces. All it does is spend more money, which they seem to be good at in Springfield. This “budget” appeases the important constituencies (parents, teachers, unions, and state employees) just before the politicians need their help getting elected to another term.
I’m not saying the General Assembly should have let the deadline pass and shutdown the whole state, but honestly, it may have accomplished more. Pressure has a tendency to make things happen quicker in Springfield. However, the real problem is two fold.
On one hand you have Governor Bruce Rauner who was elected on a platform of reform. What he needs to understand is that he is the Republican governor of a Democrat controlled state. Whether he likes it or not, he’s not going to get all of his Turnaround Agenda passed, so its time to start to find a compromise position. Something is better than nothing in this case.
On the other hand you have Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton who are wanting to maintain their iron grip on the legislature and make sure the governor doesn’t achieve any real victories under their watch. Even after negotiating the stopgap budget passed last week, Madigan added a poison pill amendment at the last minute which almost killed the whole thing. Thankfully, he allowed it to be pulled or else we probably wouldn’t have had what we’ve got. But that’s the problem… How can you work with someone from a position of trust when they immediately stab you in the back at the first possible opportunity?
The problem rests on both sides of the aisle and real reform needs to directly impact both sides of the aisle.
I’m not a “throw the all the bums out” voter. I believe there are some people who go into public life in order to really make a difference and enact positive change. But I also believe that there is an expiration date, where a politician becomes over ripe and begins to rot on the shelf. I think that time has long past for a lot of people in Springfield. Don’t even get me started on Washington, that’s a column for another day.
In order to fix our state, if it really can be fixed at this point, tough decisions will have to be made. Those decisions start in November when we all go to vote. I encourage you to really get to know your state representative and senator before Election Day. Research his voting record. Find out who has donated to his campaign. Look at who he supports for Speaker of the House and Senate President and then take a long look at their records.
Would term limits solve these problems? Perhaps. But then I reflect on those lawmakers at all levels who have given more than eight years or so of quality service to the people and think how much of a shame it would be if they’d been forced to retire earlier than they wished to. And while I’ve probably lost you by now because you’re laughing too hard at the idea of a politician giving more than eight years of quality service, let me assure you, while they are diamonds in the rough, they do exist. So I don’t know if term limits are the answer, but I have to admit they would have helped a lot in Springfield.
If you don’t know who your legislator is, look on your voter regisration card and look for district numbers. All of the legislators are listed on ILGA.gov by district number. You’ll also find their office number too. Call and schedule an appointment to talk to them. They work for you and should be more than happy to meet you.
Our schools, seniors, and disabled got lucky this time but if things keep going the way they’re going, that luck will run out very soon.