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The Illinois budget impasse is good if it forces the governor and all lawmakers to face facts on the budget and develop a plan for the state to live within its means.

The guiding principle as negotiations unfold should be: Stick to the basics.

Until the state can meet existing obligations such as making timely payments to Medicaid providers and pension funds, the government shouldn't embark on grandiose plans such as the Gov. Rod Blagojevich's questionable "Illinois Covered" health-care plan.

There also should be no increase in taxes and fees or elimination of so-called "loopholes" without a full discussion of what they are and what the impact would be.

In many ways, it is good that the Legislature missed its May 31 deadline - when only a simple majority was needed to approve a bill.

We commend the Democrats who didn't succumb to the siren's call of more entitlements and the demonizing of "Big Business."

Without them, the budget might have been passed with Republicans being shut out of the process.

Because a three-fifths majority is now needed for approval, Democrats have to include Republicans in budget negotiations.

To paraphrase an old saying: Two political parties are better than one when it comes determining the state's spending plan.

With more sides involved in the process, there should be more frank and open discussions, with a fuller examination of each proposal.

However, if lawmakers slip into "wheeler-dealer" mode, trading their votes for special projects in their district, the budget could become more bloated than what was proposed before the May 31 deadline.

Lawmakers should resist that temptation.

Looking out for one's district is important, but lawmakers - and the governor - need to look at the best interests of the state as a whole.

It is in the best interests of the state to meet current obligations, improve the state's business climate and stick to the basics.


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