It’s been nine months without a government budget in Illinois, but in the last week, urgency has picked up in Springfield to hammer out an agreement.
Govenor Bruce Rauner (R) made a public plea for both sides to get together and get it done.
“I am just heartbroken,” said Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-67th). “I just feel every bit of the pain that my constituents reach out to me and express. So, I don’t have the same optimism that I had nine months ago.”
Nine months ago was the last time the state of Illinois had a budget in place. As Wallace read through an op-ed Rauner penned in a Springfield newspaper last week, urging both sides to get a deal done, she searched for the energy and found some of that optimism.
“I think everyone has been asking for that for about nine months. Our constituents want that. We’ve wanted it as legislators. So, let’s do this.”
“You talk to rank and file members, both sides, especially the majority side, they don’t disagree with some of the things that the Governor wants to do,” said Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R-69th). “There’s things that his office has said, ‘you know, we can do that. We can work with them. Let’s do that.'”
Both Rockford lawmakers agree with the Governor in tackling higher education and social services for the immediate future, but the tactics themselves have been a sticking point.
“This idea that, ‘if you don’t pass this piece of legislation, I won’t sign another piece of legislation,’ that’s not negotiating. That’s holding the budget hostage.”
With both chambers returning to Springfield on Tuesday, it’s a rare opportunity to make progress together. But, after nine months, don’t bet on a straight budget without some structural reform.
“Look at the last ten years in Illinois,” said Sosnowski. “We need some structural reform. So, if we don’t do a little something, we’re just continuing to kick the can down the road.”