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Doubek: Illinois budget stalemate about to mess with our lives

State Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, speaks during a press conference with House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, outside Gov. Bruce Rauner's office Tuesday, May 31, 2016, in Springfield, Ill. (Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP)

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Well, here we are, my fellow Illinoisans. Just a few days away from the sparkling start to a brand-spanking-new fiscal year.

In the 540 or so days since GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner took office, he’s managed to negotiate zero budgets, zero cuts and plenty of court-ordered spending that is several billions more than his state government is collecting.

In at least the past four years, Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and their Democratic majorities in the Illinois House and Senate have approved zero balanced budgets, with plenty of oinky pork projects that cost millions of dollars for their members that help send Illinois into the red.


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In the past eight months, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has approved zero museums, negative-zero improvement in the city’s credit rating, narrowly avoided one teachers’ strike so far, nearly lost his own job, and instead, sacrificed one police superintendent.

Are we all close enough to even yet, or do we need to get out the measuring sticks?

Well, I know you’re sick of those darn political jokers. They don’t care about you, so why should you care about them? Let’s move on and look ahead to measuring what life here will be like as the week ends and another new fiscal year begins with no budget.

If you’re heading out of town to celebrate Making ‘Murica Great Again, don’t worry about the trip back home. It’ll be a breeze with all those road projects completely shut down for who knows how long? No flaggers slowing traffic down for miles. They’ll be busy filing for unemployment checks you help fund. And when those chunks of broken-up concrete get swept by a trucker’s wheels into the edge of your lane, well, we’ll just have to hope you see it well enough in advance.

When you stop to fill up the tank and empty the bladder, you’ll still be paying tax on the gas, but none of your local communities will see that cash without a state budget. Go ahead and buy some scratch-off tickets at the register before you go, but be forewarned, if you win, you’re not getting scratch as we enter two-plus years without a state spending plan.

Once you return home from life in states with budgets (many of them even balanced), you’d better start hunting around for some long-term child care because the local school district might open in August for a week or three, but it’s doubtful it can last long term without any state money.

Heck, if you happen to have a college kid at Chicago State, Eastern or Western Illinois, you might as well not bother sending them, they’re so close to the brink of collapse. Might as well suggest they make protesting at McDonald’s for the #FightFor$15 part of their long-term career plans. At least they can protest in the trendy West Loop near the hot jobs at Google. Just be sure to tell Junior to look down while he shouts and carries a sign. You really don’t want him twisting an ankle in one of those potholes that sink deeper by the day with no cash appropriated for repairs.

Think about it. All those college students will be competing for jobs with their professors and all the bar owners, fast food franchise owners, landlords and more from those college towns. I wonder how high the unemployment rate will rise in Illinois between that and the freak-out in Great Britain that surely will drive an even bigger abyss between low incomes and high incomes. Thank goodness we have Speaker Madigan protecting that shriveling middle class. His vision for the future is so bright, we gotta wear shades and find second jobs.

Oh, right, I forgot you don’t care about him or the other politicians. They’re irrelevant. Let’s all remind ourselves of that when the CTA and Metra shut down and those of us who do have jobs can’t get to them. Government is just a joke.

I’m sure that’s what the clients and assistants and counselors and clerks think at Lutheran Social Services and the Family Service and Mental Health Center of Cicero, or at Maryville Academy and Ballard Nursing Home, or at Little City or The Women’s Center safe house in Carbondale. Remember, last week the United Way released a survey that showed one million people in our state have lost those kinds of human services.

Nah, government doesn’t touch us. Those politicians are a waste. They nearly finished a six-month stopgap budget just in the nick of time. Now they’re balking over whose schools and taxpayers are bailing out whom.

Ah, who cares? It’s time to drink, throw some burgers on the grill and blow off plenty of illegal fireworks. Hmm, wonder if the hospital emergency room will be short-staffed without state funding this weekend?

Madeleine Doubek is chief operating officer of Reboot Illinois.

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