This much is certain: The State of Illinois is in considerably worse shape today than it was 846 days ago when Bruce Rauner became governor.
Who’s to blame? Rauner 100 percent.
House Speaker Michael Madigan 100 percent.
And every other member of the General Assembly (including local lawmakers we love to like) 100 percent.
Campaigning for next year’s state elections already has begun. So has the finger-pointing. It’s time to assign some blame.
Rauner has become consistently inconsistent in identifying just what part or parts of his “turnaround agenda” he will insist on before agreeing to any long-term or even short-term budget deal. He’s been higgledy-piggledy on whether he’d sign onto any type of tax increase and declines to specify where he’d cut spending.
In a recent fundraising letter, he wrote, “I refuse to pass the buck to the next generation.” Say what? The state’s fiscal hole has gotten deeper every day he’s been in office and it’s not just the next generation that will have to deal with it. As the state’s CEO, he’s failing at leadership.
Madigan meanwhile won’t allow any legislation to move forward that might require a difficult vote from his Democratic majority. Bare-knuckle politics — not good governance and prudent policymaking — rule the day. Madigan has wrathfully managed the Illinois House, almost without interruption, for 34 years now and is a big part of why our state is fiscally over-extended. Time to go.
Other lawmakers have gotten very good at throwing their hands into the air, saying “What can we do?” Would it be too much to suggest they do their job?
By now they should have marched across the aisle, joined hands with members of the other party, corralled their leaders and Rauner into a room and not let them out (seriously) until they reach a balanced budget deal they’re all prepared to unconditionally support.
Some of our area’s legislators have gladly ascended to more important roles in the Springfield power structure. With that comes responsibility and accountability, not just a bigger paycheck and a seat closer to the head of the table. Man up.
Just to refresh the woeful screen of unfortunate facts: The backlog of unpaid bills is now $12.1 billion — more than $1 billion higher than in January. In those intervening 15 weeks, the overdue tab has risen $88 for every Illinois citizen and now stands at $945. The state’s bond rating is approaching junk status. Borrowing money costs more. Critical social services are flat-out disappearing. Educational institutions are limping. Businesses and local governments lack certainty. We’re like farmers eating their seed corn.
Who else is to blame? You and me (100 percent) for letting this go on for so long.
Maybe it’s time the “Indivisible” activist groups so focused on national issues and congressional elections redirect some of their energy to matters in Springfield. Maybe the hundreds of people — most of them women — who marched on the state capitol last month should have carried pitchforks.
Something needs to happen to quickly move the state’s political leaders to a compromise that will end Illinois’ head-long slide into a social and fiscal mudhole already generations deep.
Not all bad
Local officials’ optimism that Bloomington-Normal might benefit from this week’s big news from State Farm is not misplaced.
Company facilities in 11 cities across the country will be shuttered over the next four years. Many of the 4,200 employees working in those cities will likely retire or find another job rather than move. But while State Farm’s new “hubs” are near capacity, State Farm’s Bloomington facilities have space. Chances are many of the displaced workers will find their jobs moving here.
Maybe that’s why company officials have felt comfortable saying their local employee count will stay fairly steady.