Opinion: Voters hold key to ending budget impasse

Opinion%3A+Voters+hold+key+to+ending+budget+impasse

By Herald & Review

Most Illinois legislators are good people, trying to do the right thing.

With that premise, the 10-month long budget impasse is a bit of a mystery. Why would good legislators allow the state to sink into such a mess?

The reason, as least partially, is the voters.

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Whether we like it or not, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner control a lot of what happens in Springfield. That’s because those two men control a lot of campaign dollars. Both political leaders have massive war chests built up that they can give to candidates they like, or use against candidates that don’t support them.

The common belief is that makes legislators beholden to their party leader. Either do what Madigan or Rauner wants or campaign money won’t be there when you need it. Or worse, your political boss will finance a primary opponent.

That kind of blunt force happens, but there are some subtleties. Neither Rauner nor Madigan want their legislative supporters to struggle. The best scenario for both parties is that most legislative races are non-competitive. That allows them to put their money, and campaign help, into a few key races. The leaders want as few of their candidates “in trouble,” as possible.

That’s where voters come in. If voters were making local legislators feel the heat over the lack of a budget, those legislators would do more to encourage Rauner and Madigan to get the problem fixed. If Rauner and Madigan thought that voters would punish local legislators for the lack of a budget in the November election, they would be much more focused on finding a solution.

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There are some obstacles to that, of course. Because of the political gerrymandering allowed by Illinois a lot of legislators, from both parties, are located in “safe” districts.

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However, voters can still make their voices heard. There are plenty of contested races in November and even if your local senator or representative isn’t involved in a contested race, they’ll listen if enough people tell them the lack of a budget is a problem. But voters need to add that if the problem isn’t solved, they are ready to take out revenge at the polls.

Simply stated, voters need to put some heat on their local legislators, who then will turn and put the pressure on Rauner and Madigan.

It’s time to make legislators, and our political leaders, understand that the budget impasse has to end.

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