Friday, April 28, 2017

Why do we have no Illinois budget? It’s the other guy’s fault, of course!

I get that Gov. Bruce Rauner has his politically-partisan hang-ups with organized labor and wants to use his time as a government official to try to undermine their influence.

Such thought offends me personally, but I get it. And if it were merely a matter of the governor trying to use his influence to alter the General Assembly’s composition following future elections to come up with a body more sympathetic to the ideas he tries to pass of as “reforms,” I’d say that’s his right.

EVEN THOUGH MOST likely I’d be voting against any Rauner-backed candidates.

But what I, and many other residents of the Land of Lincoln, find repulsive is the way that the governor is so inclined to interfere with the operations of state government – which does have responsibilities to fulfill.

Certain services to provide. Certain tasks that must be performed.

In that regard, thinking there is anything appropriate with going through two full fiscal years of government activity without a budget plan in place is totally absurd.

PERHAPS IT IS because I’m old enough to remember back a quarter-of-a-century to when Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and then-Gov. Jim Edgar got into a budget spat that saw the new fiscal year begin July 1 without a budget, and the two sides didn’t come together until the early hours of July 19.
In this fight, which one's Rocky...

Oh, the horrors! We went nearly three full weeks without the budget! I remember how ticked off people were that government was willing to ignore its responsibilities – just so the head Dem and GOPer could engage in a game of political chicken to see who would flinch first.

But by the standards we’re setting in the 21st Century, that was chicken feed. A mere flesh wound. Just like the Black Knight from the “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” film claimed, even after both of his arms had been cut off by actor Graham Chapman’s comical take of Arthur, King of the Britons.

Which is to say the financial situation of this state – tempered by the fact that without a budget plan in place, there are portions of government that cannot operate – is becoming as absurd as any Monty Python film.
... which one comes off as Mr. T?

ONLY ABSURD IN a horrifying way. Not anything even mildly amusing like “the Lumberjack Song.”

Seeing news reports on Thursday about how Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s staff is relying on the sudden upsurge in revenue from people who recently paid their state income taxes to be able to pay state bills is terrifying.

Because the upsurge will soon be spent, but the expenses will not disappear.

And for those people who are now going to rant and rage that we should only spend what we have and do away with what we cannot afford, keep in mind the responsibility does not disappear. We need to figure out ways to come up with the income to cover our expenses.

JUST LIKE IF someone goes into personal debt, we’d say they need to get off their lazy arse and get a job or two. We wouldn’t excuse their debt! Just like we don't excuse Illinois now.
Who's who?

But I have to admit that this situation Illinois is in (and could well remain in beyond the November 2018 election cycle if there is no change in the current political structure) is one of stubbornness all around.

I couldn’t help but be repulsed by the statement put out by Madigan on Thursday – the one about the meeting the two had to talk about the state budget predicament. It came across as being little more than Madigan trying to absolve himself of any blame for the current situation. It’s Rauner’s fault – just as pathetic as all the Madigan-bashing that GOPers engage in as they desperately want to think their political gamesmanship makes them appear heroic, instead of negligent toward the state’s responsibilities.

About the only thing worse was the statement that Rauner felt compelled to release, the one where he tries to claim the delays are all Madigan's fault. Two men who truly are determined to make sure that history records the other guy to blame.

FOR THIS SITUATION to get dragged on this long with no end in sight is one caused by too many people willing to look the other way while the public was suffering.
And while Madigan says, “I ask the governor to turn his focus to the budget,” I’m sure there are those who could legitimately think that the state’s long-running “Mr. Speaker” ought to do the same.

Since I seem to have fallen into a Monty Python kick I feel the need to recall a personal favorite sketch of theirs -- the one with German versus Greek philosophers playing soccer as they ponder the notion of deep thought versus actual activity.

How would Confucius rule in a Rauner/Madigan match?


EDITOR'S NOTE: The dueling statements Thursday by Illinois government’s “leaders” truly were meant to do nothing other than try to absolve themselves of blame.

First, from “Mr. Speaker”: “I requested a meeting with Governor Rauner to ensure he understood my desire to pass a full-year budget and discuss the urgent need for a resolution to the state budget impasse. Throughout the governor’s time in office, we have agreed to seven compromise budget bills when negotiations are allowed to focus on the budget. Schools, human service providers, rating agencies and thousands of others have asked us to do one thing – pass a budget.  I ask the governor to turn his focus to the budget.”

Then, the gubernatorial retort, whom we’re supposed to attribute to spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis (a person I must confess I’ve never actually met):  “For the first time in more than two years, Speaker Madigan today hinted that he may be willing to enact a truly balanced budget with changes that will help create jobs, properly fund our schools and lower property taxes. It's too soon to tell if the Speaker will ultimately agree to follow through, but the governor remains optimistic that all sides can work together to enact a balanced budget with changes that fix our broken system and restore balanced budgets for the long-term through strong economic growth."

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