For years it’s been clear that the party in charge of the Illinois General Assembly looks at our situation through rose-colored glasses to avoid seeing the true magnitude of the crises they have created. After serving in the House for more than six months now, I’ve come to understand that many on the other side of the aisle also suffer from another serious vision problem: short-sightedness.
This short-sighted problem is most evident this year in the way the majority party has chosen to deal with the state budget. As we languish this summer without a state budget in place, those who have been in control for years continue to take a piece-meal approach to the budget crisis. Rather than coming to the table to negotiate a full-year balanced budget, the Democrats continue to offer only one-month plans. The most recent, Senate Bill 2040, is actually only a partial-month slice of their earlier unconstitutional budget that, in total, spends $4 billion more than we expect to bring in in revenue this fiscal year.
This is the way they’re also dealing with state employee paychecks —tacking on a last minute amendment to their temporary budget to make temporary payments to employees. My Republican colleagues and I have pushed for passage of House Bills 4235 and 4245 which would provide a permanent solution by making state employees’ pay an ongoing appropriation. Speaker Madigan won’t allow either bill even to be debated.
There are other topics this vision problem applies to as well.
This spring the General Assembly passed a long-awaited, comprehensive telecommunications rewrite which reforms and modernizes 9-1-1 service for all residents outside of the City of Chicago. It contains some fairly big changes, such as reassigning oversight of the 9-1-1 systems to the Illinois state police. It also sunsets in less than two years (July, 2017), which also happens to be the deadline for actually getting most of the reforms in place. Many bills in Springfield have similar sunset clauses. Why? Because with a sunset all those impacted must return to Springfield and negotiate with leadership. That comes at a price.
I also find it very interesting that the same legislators on the other side of the aisle who insist that we just need to bring in more tax revenue are hosting seminars in their districts on how to protest your property tax bill. Of course, that would mean less tax revenue for their schools and local governments. I can’t decide whether that’s short-sighted or just plain hypocritical.
We need long-term solutions, not temporary “fixes.” Speaker Madigan, President Cullerton and their caucuses need to return to the negotiating table so we can work out a balanced, full-year budget. And we need to strive for permanent solutions to other costly problems; like passing my House Bill 1320 that would permanently put an end to law enforcement pension double-dipping.
Short-sightedness is correctable. And with some long-term solutions in place to actually turn our budget and our economy around, the rose-colored glasses will become unnecessary as well.