As I write this, the election has been over for a week and the first week of the General Assembly’s fall veto session is underway. There’s no question that this has been the most contentious election in recent memory. But it’s over. It’s time to put the animosity behind us and focus on the future because here in Illinois we have a lot of work to do, and to succeed we’re going to need to work together. First and foremost, we must pass a balanced state budget.
The stop gap budget the General Assembly adopted over the summer includes a full year of funding for schools (through June of 2017), but the rest of the stopgap spending will largely expire on December 31. That means we have a short time and a limited number of session days to get a new budget in place to prevent us from beginning the New Year without funding for social services, colleges and universities, and other top priorities. It’s imperative that we put aside the bitterness of the campaigns and work together across the aisle to pass a responsible budget compromise.
One of the best ways to create new revenue to help us balance the budget is to bring good jobs back to our communities; and to do that, we need to revisit our workers compensation system that has contributed to driving jobs out of our state. To be clear, I believe we must continue to protect workers’ injured on the job. That’s the right thing to do. But we need to look at potential reforms that will weigh the impacts to employee and employer more fairly. I hope my Democrat colleagues will work with us in the coming months to help make our jobs climate more competitive.
To get our budget back on firm financial ground, we also must regain control of our runaway pension costs. As it stands, our pension system is unaffordable and it’s crushing our ability to put resources toward our social services safety net and education. Various reform options have been debated, including the consideration model proposed by Democrat Senate President Cullerton that is also supported by Governor Rauner and Republican Leaders Radogno and Durkin. If Speaker Madigan would join the other leaders at the table, this too can be accomplished.
This holiday season, I hope we will all pause to be thankful for our families, our friends and all of the good things we enjoy in our lives and to consider how we can work together for a better 2017.
Happy holidays from my family to yours!