Gov. Bruce Rauner created headlines last week when he declared, and repeated, that he’s not in charge of the state.
Tell me something I don’t know.
From day one, this governor has left budgeting responsibilities to the legislature and the courts even though it’s one of the specific constitutional duties that comes with being the state’s top executive.
The state’s backlog of past-due bills grew to a record $16 billion because he didn’t manage his administration’s spending.
Keep in mind, the three-year Illinois budget impasse ended because lawmakers in both parties grew tired of waiting for the governor to do his job and took it upon ourselves to solve the problems he wouldn’t.
It’s been my experience that you find solutions by working together. This is especially true in government, where you need to convince a majority to agree with you in order to get anything done.
Gov. Rauner, on the other hand, hasn’t had a meeting with legislative leaders in more than a year. The last meeting was Dec. 6, 2016. After that, he pulled the plug.
It was around that time that then-Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno pulled me aside and pointed out that these meetings were going nowhere. She asked if I wanted to work with her to try to assemble a budget deal in the Senate to prove it could be done.
That led to what was known as the “Grand Bargain.” And although it was not enacted, it opened the door for serious, bipartisan talks among lawmakers on how to begin to address our lingering budget problems if the governor wasn’t going to.
Leader Radogno deserves more credit than she will ever get for her efforts to de-escalate political tensions and work toward compromise.
So, here we are a year later.
Leader Radogno has retired.
We are nearly halfway through that budget deal that ended the impasse and saved us from junk bond status. It expires June 30.
Meanwhile, Gov. Rauner has announced that he’s not in charge.
OK, but he’s scheduled to present his budget plan for the next year in early February, which is only a couple months away.
It’s time for the governor step up, recognize the realities and responsibilities of being governor and offer a serious, balanced budget for the state that elected him.
John J. Cullerton is president of the Illinois Senate.
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