- Published: Monday, November 14, 2016 04:13 PM
With so much attention focused on the past week's alarming national events, I want to take a moment to update you about developments in Springfield and to assure you that Illinois' pressing financial problems have not been forgotten.
State lawmakers will return to the Capitol this week to consider overriding some of the governor's vetoes of legislation we passed earlier this year.
But that's not the most important matter awaiting our attention. The six-month stopgap budget that we passed in June mostly runs out on Dec. 31. The stopgap spending plan for elementary and secondary schools covers the entire fiscal year, but essentially the rest of the measure was temporary and only guaranteed funding for state operations through the end of 2016 (and, by the way, much of this funding is wholly inadequate even for this calendar year).
If we enter 2017 without another plan in place, Illinois' universities, community colleges, human service providers, businesses and others will face renewed uncertainty, the state's mountain of debt will climb higher and our reputation likely will be further damaged. This is particularly alarming given the deterioration that all these entities have experienced during the long, grueling 18 months we've endured without a proper budget.
Illinois has been in turmoil for a year and a half, and it's not clear that we're any closer to a resolution than we were when the governor took office nearly two years ago.
The uncertainty has to stop. The unnecessary and self-inflicted wounds we're subjecting our social safety net and higher education system to are not only cruel, they are also likely to have extremely long-term negative consequences.
State leaders can’t address any of that until we start working together to find a different path forward. We need a responsible, long-term plan for spending and revenue that fuels the state’s economic engine without targeting working families and the social safety net. The governor has to set aside his radical anti-union agenda if he wants to move forward, and Democrats must come to the table in a spirit of cooperation on the fiscal issues that matter and will make a difference for the state.
My message to the governor is simple: "Let’s work it out. I'm willing to compromise where it's consistent with my basic principles — and you should do the same. We probably won't be able to convince each other on your union-busting agenda, and just as I respect your right to your opinion I hope you respect mine. In the meantime, to move our state out of this mess, let's find the areas where there's a chance at an agreement and tackle those first."
I'll keep you posted.