Congratulations, my fellow Illinoisans. You helped derail Trumpcare.
Truly, that was citizen action and engagement at its best, as hundreds upon hundreds of Illinoisans and others around the country swamped their elected representatives with calls and emails.
Now, could we all please just look away from that Washington, D.C., train wreck for a little while and give the political train wreck in Illinois our attention and action?
Our home state really needs our voices.
A recent poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute shows there’s a good reason why we haven’t had a state budget for a record 21 months: because we’re all conflicted about a solution. The poll showed 45 percent of Illinoisans believe the state’s bill backlog can be solved by cutting waste alone, while 46 percent favor cutting and raising taxes.
Our elected officials are representing us. We’re divided, too. The bigs play games, point fingers, grandstand and yet, manage to get their pay restored because we aren’t demanding they stop, grow up and do their jobs. It’s way past time to get over our divisions, people.
Last week, lawmakers heard about a baby boy with lung damage who requires extra oxygen to live. He nearly lost his tank supplier because Illinois politicians aren’t doing anything about paying the state’s overdue bills.
Just a few days ago, Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown told the story of an 83-year-old man who fell in his tub, face down, and was left there for four days until a state caregiver found him. Lois Porter, that 74-year-old state caregiver, is doing her job, sometimes without pay because the state is $1 million behind in paying her employer.
People are losing their jobs because the state isn’t paying human service providers, or funding public colleges, or providing financial aid to students at private and public colleges.
This is outrageous, as outrageous as anything going on in Washington, D.C.
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno stuck their necks out and tried to lead the way toward a compromise a few weeks ago until Gov. Bruce Rauner and his staff got involved and derailed it.
That compromise included tax increases, property tax freezes, workers’ compensation reform, pension changes, school funding reform and a whole lot of gambling expansion. There’s plenty to love and hate. If it manages, by some miracle, to resurface in some form, there’s no guarantee it would even get a glance in the House from Democratic Speaker Mike Madigan because not enough of us are pressuring our politicians to end this stalemate.
Many people now believe Madigan and Rauner won’t end their ego- and power-driven impasse until after they see the outcome of the November 2018 election that is 20 months away. And what if that election doesn’t really change the power dynamic? That’s as strong a possibility as any other. Rauner’s own budget office estimates the state’s debt will be $24 billion by then.
If you still can’t relate to any of those fellow Illinois human beings being hurt by this disaster, perhaps I can hit you in your wallet?
An end to this is going to require more money from you. The longer we wait for a plan, the more it will take.
Right now, the state is more than $13 billion behind in paying people who’ve already done work for the state. It would take every man, woman and child paying $1,000 each to come close to paying off that debt. What’s that add up to in your household? Double that by the next statewide election.
And that amount doesn’t even begin to touch the $130 billion in debt we owe current and future retirees in the state’s five pension funds.
People outside of the Chicago area desperately need jobs. Our unemployment rate is 5.4 percent. Nationally, it’s 4.7 percent. This name-calling, power nonsense is causing us all to endure our own version of a Grand Political Recession.
Downstate children need a fairer shot at a better education. There’s a huge gap between what is spent per child in the suburbs and what is spent per child in downstate communities. Suburban Roundout School District 72 spent more than $31,000 per student last year, while downstate Aviston School District 21 spent a bit more than $6,200. And we all know we’re not doing right by all our children in Chicago.
Why is it so easy to get sucked into the drama in D.C., but ignore what’s happening in Illinois? Where is our outrage?
If enough of us would accept the reality that it will take tax increases and cuts and apply some pressure to our officials within Illinois, we could start saving our state. We could end the Rauner-Madigan madness. We could work to improve Illinois. It will take work and it will take a lot of us. Let’s try to save the baby boys and the 83-year-old men and all the rest of us. Let’s look in a mirror. Let’s do our jobs.
Find contact information for Illinois lawmakers at www.ilga.gov. Or use the Sound Off tool we built at Reboot Illinois to email, all at once, your state representative, senator and the top state politicians.
Madeleine Doubek is publisher of Reboot Illinois.
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