Editorials

Illinois’ political games on budget may be wrecking young lives

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, speaks to reporters Dec. 1 outside Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, speaks to reporters Dec. 1 outside Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office. AP

Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, and the devil may well be a killer.

Our Illinois neighbors in Chicago are in the midst of the deadliest year in decades — more than 700 homicides were tallied with a month to go. Some have asked whether this record year is tied to the Illinois budget impasse, and the fact that nearly 1 million folks are not getting the state services they would have gotten because two-thirds of mental health, substance abuse and youth services have been cut by agencies that have gone without state money.

And it is hitting closer to home. St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said the impasse is destroying the Redeploy Illinois program, which puts troubled teens in school and in job training, rather than in prison.

He said Redeploy Illinois is “20 times less costly than putting a juvenile into the Department of Juvenile Justice. That’s a real number.”

Kids idle on the street rather than in school or in programs can lead to trouble. It can lead to death.

So why doesn’t the guy who lives in the shadow of Midway Airport do something to maybe help those kids? Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan either doesn’t bother to show up or refuses to participate in budget negotiations.

And the list of idle kids may soon grow exponentially as schools run out of money.

The veto session is over, and lawmakers are gone, likely until Jan. 9. The temporary budget expires Dec. 31. Christmas break could get very, very long for some schools that can’t run without their state money.

So will they get down to business on Jan. 9? State Sen. Christine Radogno, the Republican leader, said she thinks Madigan is trying to create wreckage that he thinks will put more Democrats in the legislature and governor’s mansion in 2018.

Well if that is the strategy, doesn’t he think there’s wreckage enough? Does he need more bodies, more wrecked young lives or maybe another billion or two in backlogged bills atop the current $10.7 billion?

No political gain or game is worth having blood on your hands.

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