- Published: Wednesday, February 03, 2016 10:54 AM
The following column by Sen. Daniel Biss was published in Crain's Chicago Business on Feb. 2, 2016.
Everywhere I go, I hear the same question: What on earth is going on in Springfield? People can't figure out why we have no budget, what the consequences are, whether our economic future is slipping away from us and what can be done about it all.
Sometimes they even go on to point out that surely something is wrong and in need of reform in Illinois, so it must stand to reason that we should enact Gov. Bruce Rauner's agenda.
But until Massachusetts made a surprise appearance in his State of the State address last week, Rauner's efforts at reform have focused on emulating anti-union policies enacted in very conservative states like Texas, South Carolina and Mississippi—and, more recently, states like Wisconsin that have undergone dramatic political change.
The Illinois General Assembly has rejected many of Rauner's ideas, but media coverage of the ensuing budget stalemate largely has focused on political and personality disputes.
What this coverage neglects is that the underlying dispute is about economic philosophy and values between a Republican governor and a Democratic-controlled Legislature. Rauner and his supporters believe in a theory of economic growth that focuses on competitiveness, which to them means decreasing costs for businesses and decreasing wages and benefits for workers. Democrats believe in a theory of economic growth that invests in people and infrastructure while relying on rising wages to build a thriving middle class that then drives further consumption and growth.
Rauner has been slow to figure out that this is a genuine disagreement. It's not a consequence of politics or coalitions or alliances. It's one of deep, long-held beliefs. If he wants to make progress on these issues, he'll have to—slowly—convince lawmakers he's right, not just rely on political pressure.