- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June 11, 2017

Belleville News-Democrat

Illinois income growth worst in nation, yet lawmakers want higher taxes

The playbook is being followed, pretty much like Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner predicted.

The Illinois House wouldn’t even bring a budget bill to a vote before they adjourned May 31. Rauner said House Democrats would spend the summer holding press conferences and “sham” hearings with those hurt by the budget. Democratic state Reps. Jay Hoffman and LaToya Greenwood followed the plan and did just that Wednesday.

Well, it is easy to believe the pain of folks suffering from the lack of a budget. A day care for the elderly is only open because they won the lottery. There is evidence everywhere, from our university campuses to the gargantuan, $15 billion pile of unpaid bills.

Now this: Illinoisans’ income growth is the worst in the nation.

Since 2007 when the Great Recession started, our average income growth has been 0.8 percent a year. We are tied for last place with Nevada.

So the pain is real. The question is whether Hoffman, Greenwood and their fellow travelers really care.

They point fingers at Rauner and say 700 days have passed without a long-term spending bill.

Well whose fault is that? Who is responsible for passing a spending bill? Who has allowed three years to pass without figuring out a budget bill? Who controls the Illinois House? Who is likely to go through the 2018 gubernatorial election without doing their duty, as mandated by the Illinois Constitution, to deliver a balanced budget bill to the governor’s desk?

Instead the Democrats on cue trot out victims, chant Rauner’s name and pretend their hands are clean. Their peers in Congress call out Rauner for not commenting on the American Healthcare Act, but do any of them call out the state lawmakers whose last budget plan was to tax the nation’s highest-taxed population, with the lowest income growth, another $5.4 billion?

They care about politics. They don’t care about the pain or their fannies would be in Springfield doing the jobs they were elected to do.


June 9, 2017

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

Is process really broken?

Holding a constitutional convention has surface appeal in a state whose leaders refuse to compromise.

An Illinois House member from Springfield - Rep. Tim Butler - has an interesting, but not persuasive, suggestion for fixing Illinois.

He contends that it’s time to hold another constitutional convention to revise the Illinois Constitution voters adopted in 1970. His proposal was motivated by complaints he’s heard from constituents who argued that the state’s framing document is insufficient to allow the state to move forward, whatever that means.

People sometimes have a tendency to view process as the key to political success. At the same time, they view their favored process as the best method of achieving that success, which usually means the adoption of whatever proposal they wish to see adopted.

Good process is, of course, important. But what really matters is the people who are in charge of the process.

Illinois’ current political and budgetary stalemate isn’t the result of the process outlined in the state Constitution. It represents the failure of those in charge - Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton - to work out a compromise budget and reform package.

One could argue that the Constitution allows legislators to gerrymander their districts, and that contributes to the current stalemate. One would be correct to do so.

But governors and legislatures have settled their differences in previous years in the face of the gerrymandering problem. So budget compromise is achievable, even if those in charge have so far failed to achieve it.

So, too, with many other problems the state faces, either through the legislative process or the constitutional amendment process.

One more thing - who would serve as delegates to the proposed constitutional convention? Wouldn’t the exact same forces at war in the General Assembly make up, in one form or another, the delegates to the convention?

A highly political atmosphere is no time to be writing a nonpartisan document that frames the operations of state government.

Rep. Butler’s interest in this issue is understandable. But there’s no magic bullet for avoiding political stalemate like the one Illinois faces now.

There is, however, a solution, and it’s not a new Constitution. It’s good, old-fashioned bargaining in which both sides are willing to give something to get something in the service of the common good.


June 8, 2017

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

Why you can’t tune out the next state election

If you want another example of how Illinois government failures hurt all of us in the state, look no further than Jake Griffin’s column that appeared Wednesday in the Daily Herald.

It details the suburbs’ share of $14.7 billion in past-due bills for state contracts, on which we taxpayers are paying interest.

About $5.6 billion of that is owed to contractors and nonprofits in the Chicago area, $2.2 billion of it in suburban Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.

Companies that are waiting for their money range from an Oak Brook insurance manager for the Medicaid health program for the poor, disabled and elderly to the “seven figures” a small-business owner in St. Charles says he’s owed for getting rid of leaking underground fuel tanks.

The overdue bills translate into jobs not filled, offices not rented, services not provided. It’s a big drag on the economy, and it’s no wonder Illinois lost more residents in 2016 than any other state.

Nor is it surprising to hear speculation that some vendors may quit doing business with the state.

“Who are you getting to do the work that’s willing to wait months, if ever to get paid?” Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, said. “We’ve got to pass a budget to be sure we’re getting the best workers.”

While the state flounders, at least nine people already are ramping up for possibly the most expensive campaign for governor in Illinois history. The candidates have raised $82 million already, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, even though we’re a long ways away from the March 20 primary.

The millions of campaign dollars mean you’ll be hearing a lot from the candidates for governor.

Some state legislators also are up for election next year, and you’ll be hearing a lot from them, too, with all the candidates likely throwing around blame for the three-year state budget standoff that spawned the bill backlog.

We ask that you not tune out of the debate. We ask that you look beyond the political ads in assessing whether any candidate has a sound solution for getting out of the budget abyss (especially any that claim we’ll get out of this mess without a state tax increase).

We’ll do our best to provide that information and analysis on an election that’s crucial to Illinois’ future. You don’t need to look any further than Griffin’s column to see that the state’s finances affect all of us.

We hope you take that as a challenge to be informed and, come next year, cast a well-considered vote.

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