Daily Egyptian

Editorial: Harder work needed on state budget

By Herald & Review in Decatur

As each day passes, the state’s budget crisis reaches deeper and deeper into the lives of Illinois residents.

Although some of the signs are evident, such as social service agencies struggling to make ends meet, colleges and universities laying off personnel to make up for a lack of state funding, school districts contemplating cuts and companies refusing to do business with the state, there are less obvious impacts, too. In fact, it’s fair to say the state’s budget problems are adversely affecting almost every business in the state.

The uncertainty the impasse has caused, along with concerns about higher tax rates, have forced many businesses into a conservative mode. When businesses don’t spend money on products, new employees and investments, the entire economy suffers.

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Meanwhile, the General Assembly is doing what it usually does during January and February — a lot of nothing. In the midst of the largest financial crisis in the state’s history, the House and Senate have been in session six times each since the beginning of the year.

The two chambers are scheduled to be in session three days this week, including the governor’s budget address today. They plan to take the last week of February off, meet two or three times a week for the first three weeks in March and then take a two week “spring break.”

Out of more than 60 possible meeting dates in the first three months of the year, the chambers will have each met fewer than 20 times. That doesn’t include House “perfunctory sessions,” which are technicalities that allow bills to be filed and items read into the record without requiring attendance by the representatives.

Legislators are acting like everything is operating smoothly. The lack of urgency is a product of the way the General Assembly is structured. House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton hold a good deal of the power and no budget deal will happen without them reaching an agreement with Gov. Bruce Rauner.

It’s a fact of life in Illinois that our elected legislators don’t create much legislation. Instead, they react to what the leaders put together. That’s especially true on huge issues such as the state budget.

Still, there is value in having legislative bodies work harder. Both the General Assembly and Congress have developed schedules that allow the folks we elect to spend a lot of time doing things other than legislating. The budget impasse and the state’s financial problems need to be treated like a crisis.

That means legislators need to be involved in meetings and the governor and the leaders should be meeting more often and get serious about solving this problem. Although legislators and political leaders can pretend otherwise, the lack of a budget is adversely affecting the state.

Not only does the state’s deficit grow by the day, but the state’s reputation as a reliable place to work, live and do business also suffers. Our elected officials need to get to work and stay at it until a solution is reached.

(c) 2016 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)

Visit the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.) at www.herald-review.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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