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Unacceptable, yes. Pathetic, too

Gov. Bruce Rauner (left) and Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Please note: The governor’s email address was updated at 10:40 a.m. Wednesday.

At some point, Illinois might finally get a budget, a small one. Just big enough to pay for a single light bulb.

Then the last resident of Illinois will pick up and leave, switching off the light on the way out, and the state won’t need a budget anymore.

There are days we’re not sure if that’s a joke or a premonition. There are days we worry that Illinois’ future has become so uncertain, due in part to a budget impasse without end, that our state is reaching a point of no return.

EDITORIAL

Illinois is beginning to resemble one of those Antarctic glaciers that are so far gone they will continue to melt even if global warming is reversed.

Not that global warming is about to be reversed. Not that Illinois is about to pass a budget.

This is unacceptable. That’s the word of choice — unacceptable — to be found in a front-page editorial running in newspapers across the state this week, on Wednesday, in a coordinated effort by the papers to express their mutual disgust in a dramatic way. With this editorial, we join that effort.

“Unacceptable. That one word perfectly sums up the pain, dysfunction and instability Capitol politicians have inflicted on Illinois by their failure to provide a permanent balanced state budget for two years,” writes the State Journal-Register, speaking for us all.

More than unacceptable, it is pathetic.

That Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois House and Senate would allow Illinois to stumble through yet a third year without a budget, as bills and debt pile up and businesses and residents leave, is beyond irresponsible.

And spare us the lecture about the need for structural reform first. If Illinois keeps going like this, there won’t be much to structure or reform.

The editorial running in the Journal-Register and other papers sums up the damage well: Illinois’ credit rating has been repeatedly downgraded. Residents are seeking “green pastures” elsewhere. Community colleges and universities have been gutted. Businesses have closed up shop, and social service agencies are turning away our state’s most vulnerable people.

Illinois’ unpaid bills topped $14 billion last week. The state’s five pension systems are short $130 billion.

And the damage to Chicago, we might add, is immense. The state’s inability to pass a basic budget, which would include funding for schools, is why Chicago may be forced to borrow $389 million at rates approaching a pay-day loan to keep school doors open through to the end of the scheduled school year.

This is how Illinois treats kids. And we wonder why people leave.

Just this week, Crain’s Chicago Business reported that a record number of new graduates of Illinois’ two public medical schools are leaving Illinois to continue their post-graduate training elsewhere, in part to avoid the craziness of practicing medicine in Illinois. They told Crain’s they are troubled by cuts to the hospitals and other medical services here.

Meanwhile, Rauner and the Legislature — most specifically House Speaker Mike Madigan — have shown zero political courage. At least Senate President John Cullerton has stuck his neck out, pushing a spending plan through the Senate on Tuesday, without a single Republican vote, that includes tax increases and spending cuts.

Rauner is running political ads, the goofy ones with the duct tape, laying the groundwork for his re-election next year. But he is not governing. As we said in a previous editorial, the first and most basic job of a CEO — and a governor is a CEO — is to produce a budget. The buck stops there.

And Madigan? Mike is being Mike, as inscrutable as ever. Nobody’s can be sure if he has any interest in passing a state budget at this point, or if he’s biding time until he can run Rauner out of Springfield.

At best, we fear, in this last week of the spring session, the governor and Legislature will pass a puny stopgap spending plan, as they did last year. It will not include sufficient revenues, meaning the state’s debts will grow. And it will not provide one iota of the financial predictability and stability that businesses are begging for.

Contact your state representative and senator, as well as the Legislature’s Democratic and Republican leadership. Call and email the governor’s office. Give them all an earful.

This is unacceptable, yes. Pathetic, too.

Contact:

* Gov. Bruce Rauner

Office of the Governor

207 State House

Springfield, IL 62706

217-782- 0244

GOV.GOCA@illinois.gov

* House Speaker Michael Madigan

300 Capitol Building

Springfield, IL 62706

217-782- 5350

No working email provided

* Senate President John Cullerton

Senator 6th District

327 Capitol Building

Springfield, IL 62706

217-782- 2728

john@senatorcullerton.com

* Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno

Senator 41st District

309G Capitol Building

Springfield, IL 62706

217-782- 9407

christine@senatorradogno.com

* House Minority Leader Jim Durkin

316 Capitol Building

Springfield, IL 62706

217-782- 0494

Durkin@ILHouseGOP.org