Friday, June 30, 2017

Counting down to new fiscal year -- where does Illinois go from here?

A part of me is reluctant to write this commentary; yet another piece of copy about the inability of our state government officials to put together an operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year that would enable things to run the way they’re supposed to.
No one's celebrating this fiscal new year

I don’t doubt there are some of the individual members of the General Assembly who are prepared to vote for anything that would put a government spending plan in place so that the budget-less period of state government would end at two full years.

BUT THE REALITY is that none of those people have the influence to do anything on their own. The leaders, meanwhile, seem to have fallen into a sense of acceptance that this is the way things are.

None of the talk about junk bond status is going to sway them to act. Not the claims by Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza that she will be completely out of money to pay state bills some time in August. Not even the thought that people wishing to play the Powerball lottery games will now have to venture over into Indiana to buy their precious tickets will force action – which probably is what most offends the general public.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, isn’t about to concede a thing to the governor – largely because he knows the people who offered their financial support to his own re-election campaigns and those of the individual legislators who combined comprise a majority do so because they WANT him to stand up to Rauner.

Who may well have backed off the most over-the-top rhetoric (such as the “right to work” status for Illinois), but still thinks that the key to governing is to be able to bark orders at a Legislature of the opposition majority and have them do what they’re told.
Which of these alleged public servants ...

IT’S OBVIOUS THE man hasn’t learned a thing during the past two years. As evidenced by his public statement earlier this week that he’s prepared to force legislators to remain at the Statehouse in Springfield in special session until they finally pass a budget plan of his satisfaction.

I don’t doubt that Rauner has the authority to sign such an order. Although if he really gets that arrogant, he’s going to learn very quickly how long they can prolong the period of nothingness that we’re now engaged in.

If he thinks the General Assembly has done nothing during the past 10 days they’ve been in special session, he’ll see the legislative activity come to a complete halt!
... is the bigger budgetary bully?

And for those who think that is a childish way for the Legislature to behave, consider that Rauner is acting like the schoolyard bully. No matter what perspective one wants to view this situation through, it’s not Illinois at its finest.

NOW I’M WRITING this before the end of state Fiscal ’17. I suppose it’s possible that something could happen in the next few hours that could make it within the realm of reality that our legislators could come up with a budget proposal and approve it by late Friday.

Which would then put the matter in Rauner’s hands – and make it perfectly clear that if the state goes into a third year without a budget, it is his fault.

But the reality is that Republican legislators are sticking by their governor in not wanting to see him embarrassed. Democratic legislators are sticking by their own leaders. This has clearly become a case of political people following the old axiom – “You Dance With the One Who Brung You.” The whole situation had Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, so fed up that she said Thursday she's quitting her post of some 20 years, saying she had "done all I could do" to come up with a budget plan.
RADOGNO: To mock the Hawk, 'She gone!'

Until something occurs that snaps political people out of that mindset, nothing is going to change. We’re going to work our way through a third fiscal year, and possibly a fourth, without a budget in place.

ASIDE FROM THE financial harm that causes, there’s actually something about this that bothers me more. We’re developing a political culture that thinks this kind of absurdity is the norm.
Even Molly Ivins knew the old axiom

We might want to think that sense and responsibility must prevail, but we’re developing a political culture that sees a purpose to permitting such irrational activity out of the belief that some higher partisan political purpose is being served.

This is political partisanship at its worst – when it interferes with the operation of government in meeting its fiscal responsibilities.

If that is what winds up extending beyond future election cycles, then we will have achieved a government status that truly has become immoral – and for ways far beyond what the conservative ideologues usually mean when they rant about morals.


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