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A new path for Illinois

“The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion We must think anew and act anew.”

- Abraham Lincoln

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner had that Lincoln quote high in his budget address on Wednesday. So what’s Rauner’s plan for thinking anew and acting anew? He wants to spend only what Illinois can afford.

Taxpayers, of course, routinely set their personal budgets that way, but it truly is a radical concept in the Statehouse. For years lawmakers have lived beyond Illinois’ means and agreed to worry about the consequences later. Well, it’s later, and Rauner wants to fill the $6.2 billion hole in this coming fiscal year budget by cutting costs. State workers pensions, Medicaid spending and local government funding are items at the top of his list.

People who don’t want the spending party to end are hopping mad. How dare Rauner actually propose what he said he would do? They want the pain tempered with a tax increase.

Rauner said not now. “Before we ask the people of Illinois to pay more to fund state government, we must ensure taxpayers are getting value for their money. Asking for more of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money without fundamentally reforming the structure of state government would further erode public confidence and accelerate our decline.” Imagine, reform first. More new thinking.

Republican Rauner still has to sell his ideas to Democratic lawmakers, who have supermajorities in both the House and the Senate. Rauner told them on Wednesday: “This budget is honest with the people of Illinois, and it presents an honest path forward.”

The sooner Illinois gets on that path, the sooner we can return to being a prosperous state.