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With hundreds being laid off at agencies serving thousands of people across the state and the prospect of state paychecks being halted, state officials finally appear to have found a middle ground. It's about time.

The proposal offered by Gov. Pat Quinn will address the immediate problems and provide a little stability and predictability - at least until fall.

Essentially, Quinn has embraced what the Republican Party called for back in May - budget cuts followed by other reforms before considering an income tax increase.

Quinn is calling for approval of what amounts to a temporary budget - one that includes cuts but is unbalanced and will require further action in November.

In the meantime, Quinn said officials should look for other ways to save money on such things as Medicaid and the state's pension system. He is no longer calling for an immediate income tax increase.

Quinn could have saved a lot of people from needless suffering if he had moved this direction sooner. But other members of his party might not have been ready then.

They might not be ready now.

We will find out when the Legislature reconvenes today.

And we will find out if and when lawmakers consider further cost-saving measures, including how to change the Medicaid and pension programs to make them less costly to taxpayers.

What we fear is that lawmakers are eager to postpone a vote on taxes and spending cuts for purely political reasons.

The filing period for candidates in established parties is Oct. 26 through Nov. 2.

That means, if truly tough decisions are delayed until November, incumbents will know who their opposition is likely to be in 2010 and have a better idea of how a their votes on budget matters will affect constituents' votes on re-election matters.

Lawmakers should be more worried about the state's problems than their re-election chances, but it's a reality we have to face in a democracy.

What we fear more than the political games that might be played this fall is the harm being done the longer this impasse goes on.

By this fall, we will know more than who the 2010 candidates will be.

We will know whether the state's economy has started to turn around. We will know how well the capital program has helped Illinois by putting people to work. And we will know how initial spending cuts have affected essential services.

That knowledge should enable lawmakers and the governor to make better decisions - assuming they don't wait until the last minute again.

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