$12 billion in unpaid bills. 20 months without a full year budget in place. There are many important numbers we need to keep in mind as the budget negotiations move forward in the General Assembly.  A few weeks ago, the Governor presented his budget parameters in his annual budget address. Now the most important number General Assembly must deal with is 60-30-1 – that’s the combination of votes needed to pass a compromise budget into law (60 House members, 30 Senators and the Governor).

Following the budget address, there was a lot of talk from the other side of the aisle about the Governor’s responsibility in the process. Yes, he has specifically defined budget responsibilities under Article VIII of the Illinois Constitution. But make no mistake, the ultimate Constitutional responsibility to pass a balanced budget to fund state programs, services and operations rests with the General Assembly and its past time for us to do our job.

Two basic rules apply whether working on a family budget, or the budget for the State of Illinois; the first being that you need to establish up front how much money you have to spend. That sounds like simple common sense, but over the past two years the majority party in the House pushed votes on increasingly large spending plans with no idea how much revenue would be available to pay for them. With each new proposal, my Republican colleagues and I asked to establish a revenue estimate first. Each time, the sponsors responded “We’re not worried about that today. This is how much we want to spend.”  No.  Responsible budgeting must start with a realistic revenue estimate.

The second basic rule is that the more successful you are at what you do, the more money you will be able to bring in. For the State, being successful means attracting and growing good jobs. More jobs create more revenue that our communities and the state can dedicate to our schools, our infrastructure, and programs our families rely upon. I was very pleased that the governor stressed in his budget address the need for fundamental economic reforms that will help us bring good jobs back to Illinois.

We need a balanced, full-year budget focused on growing our economy and protecting taxpayers. And yes, we must do some things differently to accomplish those objectives. The good news is that for the first time in two years members on both sides of the aisle now agree that some economic reforms are needed to help rebuild our economy, and that’s encouraging. Will we be able to reach agreement on a compromise that can achieve that magic combination of 60-30-1 votes? If we build on recent progress made in the senate and move forward together, I believe we will.