A few weeks ago, perhaps unwittingly, Rep. Sue Scherer pretty much summed up why Illinois is firmly in its fourth month without a state budget.
Scherer, D-Decatur, in a story by Pantagraph Springfield Bureau Chief Kurt Erickson, was commenting that the state needed a budget. "I think we need an outcry from the rank-and-file lawmakers to the leaders to sit down and figure this out," she said. "We all want this solved."
A few paragraphs later, the story explained that part of the stalemate was caused by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s insistence that the General Assembly work with him on this “Turnaround Agenda’’ that includes some pro-business reforms — many of them labeled as anti-union by House Speaker Michael Madigan.
"We can't give that up," said Scherer.
That seems to be the core of the impasse — both sides want a budget but neither side wants to compromise enough to even have constructive conversations. Right now, the state is running basically on a series of court orders and legislative mandates that requires spending.
The problem, as Comptroller Leslie Munger pointed out in an editorial board meeting with the Pantagraph last week, is the state is spending money as if the income tax rollback never occurred. That means the budget deficit is getting deeper every day.
As that happens, the solutions become more painful. It will take increased tax increases and deeper cuts to balance the budget now than it would have in July. The situation gets worse every day.
The leaders, primarily Rauner and Madigan, have to face some realities.
Madigan needs to understand this budget crisis happened under his watch and that the practice of spending money the state doesn’t have must end. He needs to fully grasp the fact that the state’s voters elected a Republican governor, meaning citizens want some of the reforms Rauner is touting.
Rauner needs to understand that Democrats aren’t going to give in to demands that weaken collective bargaining rights and take away power from labor unions. Rauner is correct that Madigan has in the past supported weakening collective bargaining rights, but that isn’t going to happen in the current environment.
Rauner must grasp that governing involves more than complaining about Democrats in front of friendly crowds.
Both sides need to put a clamp on the trash talking.
There is room for compromise to achieve a balanced budget and to advance an agenda that will make Illinois more competitive. There is nothing constructive about the current conversation, except to convince everyone the state is one big mess.