The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

June 30, 2009

State budget mess must end

The next two days will tell whether as many as 2,200 Illinois state employees will lose their jobs and social services suffer significant cutbacks — or things could continue to be unresolved for weeks longer.

The state is supposed to start its new budget on Wednesday. But members of the General Assembly failed to approve a budget — even though Democrats control the Illinois House, Senate and governor’s office.

What once would have required a simply majority to pass now will need three-fifths of lawmakers to agree. That will mean the minority Republicans will be able to shape the final version of the budget — if there ever is a final version.

Gov. Pat Quinn offered more dire predictions Thursday, saying as many as 2,200 state employees will be laid off if there is no budget.

His voice joins the chorus of predictions from social service agencies, health departments and other state departments.

Chances are good, based on past practices, that some sort of spending plan will fall into place before Wednesday. It might be a patch until a formal budget can be passed, but the chances are slim the politicians who work inside the state capitol will let state services disappear.

The entire process, however, does bring to light the need for comprehensive budget reform. Government is not run like a business, but that doesn’t mean operations and services should continue as always when economic times are tough.

Someone with political guts needs to stand up and call for real change. State lawmakers need to weight the value of every dollar spent, and not just in terms of enhancing their own standing by paying for pork barrel projects within their districts.

The residents of Illinois are tired of watching this annual drama play itself out in Springfield. It’s time to see some leadership from the General Assembly.