While my policies and politics don’t generally align with the current occupant of the White House, it’s always an honor to host the President of the United States and to have him speak to you and your colleagues in person. Last month, President Obama returned to the Illinois Capitol where his political career was launched and spoke to a joint session of the Legislature in our House chamber. His message centered on civility, compromise, and a return to “better politics,” and frankly, it couldn’t have been more timely.
Specifically, the President hit on two very important points on which I can agree whole-heartedly; the first being that compromise does not make you weak.
The state of Illinois has now languished for more than eight months without a complete, agreed-upon budget in place. Throughout the process, Speaker Madigan has rejected all attempts by the administration to compromise, and has instead stood firm in support of the very policies that got us into our current financial mess. One week after the President’s speech, Governor Rauner presented his latest budget proposal in the same chamber and he again reached across the aisle in the spirit of compromise. In fact, the governor laid out two clear options for balancing the budget. One involves working together on a comprehensive approach and the other involves deeper cuts. Either way, the governor is ready to act, and it’s time the Democrats get serious about working with us to balance the budget.
I was also very pleased to hear the President in our very chamber agree with what my House Republican colleagues and I have stressed time and time again: we must take politics out of the redistricting process.
Our current process permitting one political party to re-draw legislative and congressional districts every ten years effectively allows elected officials to pick their voters when it should be the other way around. Boundaries are drawn to specifically ensure victory for candidates of one party or the other. When election outcomes are pre-determined, it’s the voters that lose. The Speaker has also dug in his heels on this issue, but it’s clear that the time for change has come.
Speaking to the General Assembly, President Obama said, “We’ve always gone through periods when our democracy seems stuck, and when that happens we have to find a new way of doing business. We’re in one of those moments.”
Yes. Here in Illinois, we are in desperate need of a “new way” of doing business. If Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton will heed President Obama’s timely advice, this can be the year we get it done. I remain committed to working together to ensure a better future for all Illinoisans.