by Senator Daniel Biss (D-9)
It looks like Gov. Bruce Rauner got the government shutdown he wanted. The Illinois fiscal year began on July 1, and when that day dawned, we had no budget, and the government began to close down operations.
We certainly have fiscal problems, and they’ll require us to work collaboratively to make tough choices. It won’t be easy but I’m ready to do just that. Gov. Rauner was elected to do that too — to erase our budget deficit, pay down our pension debt and improve our bond rating.
So far, though, the indications are that Gov. Rauner doesn’t view these challenges as central to his job. Instead, he seems much more focused on his so-called “turnaround agenda,” a series of proposals that do nothing to fix our state’s budget, but instead hurt middle-class families. These proposals might be worthy of discussion, but today they’re a distraction from the problems we need to solve immediately.
In fact, in March the governor introduced a budget that asked for tremendous sacrifice from the most vulnerable without asking anything from the wealthiest … yet it was still billions of dollars out of balance! This makes me wonder whether he is actually interested in solutions, or instead is willing to allow the government to go over a cliff and harm millions of people to make a political point.
Because, make no mistake: shutting down our government will hurt. Seniors, people with mental illness, and people with disabilities won’t receive services. Working parents will lose their child care. Public universities and community colleges won’t receive state funding — and imagine what that could do to the cost of higher education.
These consequences are unacceptable, and with all this damage around the corner, leaders in Springfield need to do everything possible to move us toward an equitable and swift resolution. That means entering into good-faith negotiations to enact a budget that is sustainable over the long term.It also means taking whatever steps are necessary in the meantime to avoid the damage of a shutdown. That’s why on July 1 the Senate voted to pass a one-month stopgap budget funding certain essential functions, mostly related to public safety and human services. This isn’t a long-term solution, but it would give us a month to keep working toward one without subjecting Illinoisans to needless suffering.
Frankly, I didn’t expect the bill to be controversial and was stunned when not one Republican voted yes after Gov. Rauner indicated he opposed it. The only reason he would fight this temporary measure is if he actually wants government to stop working. I’m confident that the people of Illinois don’t want that — that they instead want us to work together to keep government functioning, and to increase its effectiveness.
Instead, as we lurch into this shutdown, the governor has resorted to campaign tactics of blame and attack. He’s engaged in a game of chicken — but while he may see the Legislature as his adversary, it’s millions of innocent bystanders who stand to be harmed.The next few weeks are likely to be replete with confusing and unpleasant messages. Politicians will be running ads full of character assassination and threatening gratuitous cuts that would turn those innocent bystanders into pawns in a cynical game.
When I see behavior like this, my first question is whether it comes from a desire to solve problems, or whether it’s designed to exacerbate them. There are those in today’s politics who aren’t interested in solutions. Rather, they believe destroying the system is a price worth paying to advance a radical, polarizing agenda. Let’s hope for the future of Illinois that Gov. Rauner doesn’t turn out to be one of them.
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