Editorials

Forget 2016 Illinois budget, maybe 2017

Illinois Policy Institute

Gov. Bruce Rauner is putting forth a final push, trying to get someone in Springfield to do something to control state spending before the Tuesday end of the legislative session. Oh, and to help you keep track, that is the deadline for the 2017 budget.

There is little optimism that anything will happen because nothing has happened for 334 days on the 2016 budget. We’re about to see lawmakers allow a bankrupt state to continue on auto-pilot for a second year.

It’s interesting that even a liberal Chicago columnist who has been staunchly anti-Rauner is now questioning Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s intentions. Madigan appears to have no plan forward. His only aim seems to be to obstruct Rauner and keep asking to spend money we do not have — he wanted a $4 billion deficit in 2016 and $7 billion in 2017.

You have to ask: What the heck does Madigan think he can achieve? The Chicago lib columnist asks that, and we have to ask that after Madigan’s recent letter to the editor.

“I also hope the governor will look at his recent budgetary actions and see that we can come together to find reasonable solutions when he sets aside his personal agenda that will hurt middle-class families and has nothing to do with the state budget,” Madigan wrote.

Sorry, but Rauner’s reforms have everything to do with the state budget. You must grow the state economy, because taxing people enough to spend as much as Madigan wants would mean an 8 percent state income tax — and then the moving vans would really be running for the border.

From past experience, we know Madigan is talking about the state employee unions and trial lawyers that keep him in power when he talks about hurting middle-class families. But this “personal agenda” Madigan ascribes to Rauner is simply a list of items that will stop the flow of jobs and money out of Illinois. How does it hurt middle-class families to control booming property taxes, bring insurance costs in line with neighboring states and lessen the strangle-hold Madigan and Co. have on fixing anything?

Local trucking companies recently told us of workers comp insurance costs that equal regular health insurance, and how they’d like to add employees rather than pay $200,000 a year more than they’d pay for the same coverage in adjacent states. More trucking jobs paying $50,000 to $80,000 sound like a great way to help the middle class. Exactly how does Madigan want to help those families, unless he thinks he can add more state jobs?

The system will not change unless forced. It is unlikely there will be a 2016 budget or even a 2017 budget anytime soon. Some say it will be after the November elections before there’s a budget.

November would be a good time to place blame on the lawmakers who have allowed this impasse to grow the state’s deficit to a projected $10 billion. November is also a good time to approve the Independent Maps Amendment, which will put a non-partisan commission in charge of drawing state legislative districts to group people with similar interests rather than to group people so incumbents safely return to office.

The map amendment drive gathered double the needed signatures and recently withstood an Illinois State Board of Elections test that matched a sample of signatures against voting records. It passed with flying colors.

Now it must withstand a court challenge claiming that the law allowing citizens to change the Illinois Constitution is narrow and setting up an independent panel to make maps is outside that thin definition. Guess who is behind that court challenge?

Yup. The same guy who’s been in charge of maintaining the status quo for more than three decades and whose only plan is NBR: Nothing By Rauner.

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