One simple truth shines through all the noise about Illinois’ budget “impasse” that has brought suffering to people all over our state:
The Constitution of Illinois mandates in Article 8; Sec. 2: “The Governor shall prepare and submit to the General Assembly, at a time prescribed by law, a state budget for the ensuing fiscal year.” Expenditures cannot exceed revenues.
Wednesday is the day the governor is required by law to present his proposed budget.
Nowhere in the Illinois Constitution will you find a requirement that the legislature must agree to any pet projects of the governor before he fulfills his duty to present a budget. The governor has masterfully misled the state into thinking the budget process starts with legislators and that they have failed to propose a budget.
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It is the governor’s job under the Illinois Constitution to start the process by presenting an actual document in which he lays out specific cuts he would make to state programs and/or increases in revenues that would make the numbers add up. He has not done that since he took office. A pledge to “work with” the General Assembly to craft a budget does not fulfill his constitutional obligation.
The reason is clear. Doing his job means identifying the unpopular cuts or tax increases he’d have to make, and he is unwilling to face the criticism. He’d rather the other side and he announce a plan simultaneously.
He doesn’t have that choice. Being governor means you need to lead.
Anything less than a complete document with all the cuts and hikes spelled out will be more of the same abdication of responsibility that the governor has shown since the day he took office, which is why our backlog of bills has spiked to $11.3 billion in two years. Phony savings projections from pension-reform ideas he knows the courts have already ruled unconstitutional or from union-busting fantasies won’t cut it either.
Governor, you don’t need to ask the legislature for additional authority to make cuts. You have it. Use it.
During the governor’s State of the State speech last month, he went “off-script” to thank the leaders of the State Senate for doing his job for him by trying to craft a budget because he refuses to. Then behind the scenes, he apparently sent the shadow organizations he and his close friends fund to try to sabotage the senate leaders’ efforts.
This ruinous path without a real budget that the governor has forced us onto for the last two years has made all of Illinois’ already-bad problems exponentially worse. From Carbondale to Peoria to Chicago, I hear heart-breaking pleas from Illinois residents suffering from the lack of a budget. Charities are closing programs. Mothers are forced to quit their jobs and go on public assistance because they can’t get child care. Students leave or don’t go to college. State employees put off seeing their doctors who are refusing to treat them because the state can’t pay its bills on time. Businesses have zero economic stability in this state.
On Wednesday, do your job, governor. Spell out your cuts and revenues. Face the criticism you knew you’d face when you ran for this job. Negotiate. Accept a compromise, sign a balanced budget, and start the healing process.