The year-long hole the state is digging itself will only get deeper the longer it takes lawmakers to balance the budget.
State Treasurer Michael Frerichs says it will only hurt people who live here more and more.
Frerichs says it’s possible to get a budget done, but it takes compromise. Frerichs’ overall tone was one of disappointment. The word has been used a lot lately and continues to linger in the state.
Frerichs says, when he worked in the Senate, they formed a budget, no problem. Nowadays, he says, that’s unheard of.
“That, even if they can’t find a common ground today, you keep talking, keep listening, going out and holding press conferences and calling the opposite side names is not moving the ball forward.”
Frerichs says he never saw this day coming; where the state enters its second year without a balanced budget. He says the finger-pointing needs to stop.
“I think everyone realized and just came in focused on balancing a budget. They could do that pretty quickly. It’s bringing in our other issues that slows things down.”
Illinois currently has more than $7 billion in unpaid bills. Frerichs says, the longer it takes to reach a compromise, the more it will affect Illinoisans.
“We’re not able to make plans. We’re making less money. When we bring in less money, that’s alternately more money the governor and the General Assembly will have to raise taxes or deeper cuts they have to make in important social services, like education.”
Lawmakers are back this week, but one representative says it will be a dull gathering.
“I would imagine not much is going to get done this week. I do think they’re still discussions going on with working groups and staff to try and get a stop-gap budget in place. I think that’s really key.”
It could take awhile. In the meantime, Illinoisans will have to wait.
“This is still a great state. I have great hope for the future, but I can only go on so long before people give up hope.”
Representative Tim Butler (R) says, as long as working budget groups continue to meet, it’s possible to find middle ground. Frerichs agrees and, like many elected officials, they remain hopeful.
“Politics is the art of compromise. I can’t tell you who is winning this fight. I know both sides think they are, but I can sure tell you who’s losing are the people of the state of Illinois.”
The House returns Wednesday. No word when the Senate will come back to town.