Members of the Illinois Senate will meet for their first session of 2016 Wednesday. Their counterparts in the Illinois House will not convene until Jan. 27 because Speaker Michael Madigan told The Associated Press, “the workload is not there.”
Apparently, Madigan and his supporters do not consider the lack of a 2015 budget — that’s right, the state has operated since last spring without a budget — important enough to consider part of the House members’ workload.
This tale of a political standoff between the majority Democratic leadership in the General Assembly and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is growing old — and frustrating.
The Democrats want to restore the income tax increase — the law that pushed the income tax rate to 5 percent also included a provision for it to expire — along with spending cuts. Rauner said he would consider a tax increase — if the Legislature would pass a package of reforms that mostly target business interests.
Meanwhile, court rulings and a patchwork of budget legislation that did pass last year has allowed the state to continue operating, although there are some sections of state services — most deal with care of the elderly or preschool-age children — that failed to receive full funding. And the state’s public pension shortfall continues to grow, with its latest estimate at $111 billion.
Ignoring the need for a budget and the pending pension crisis shows a total disregard for the people of Illinois. When political gamesmanship replaces leadership in Springfield, something needs to be done to create change. It’s obvious most of the members of the General Assembly are just along for the ride, or the same legislative leaders who created this impasse would not be returned to their positions of authority time after time.
There’s an independent movement under way to force Illinois to begin using a non-partisan method to draw new legislative districts. If it makes it to the ballot, it’s likely to pass. But that’s a long way off.
In the meantime, Illinois residents who do think the lack of a budget deserves attention from the Illinois House should share their views with their own representatives and with Madigan’s office. Maybe if enough voters’ voices speak out, someone at the top will pay attention.