Thursday, June 1, 2017

Legislators, Governor again fail to find budget consensus

IASB Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm
IASB Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm sums up the dismal end to yet another legislative session without an approved state budget.
Not with a bang, but with a whimper. Again. Lawmakers limped out of the Capitol Wednesday evening without agreeing to, or even voting on, a Fiscal Year 2018 state budget. The utter failure was, unfortunately, predictable. With the governor and legislative leaders saying and doing the same things they have said and done the last two years, was there any chance the outcome would not be the same? What do they say about the definition of insanity?

After it was evident that there would be no budget bill presented on Wednesday, each of the players retired to their separate quarters to hold their respective press conferences, where they all pointed fingers at each other to assign blame. The governor met with reporters in his office, flanked by the Republican leaders from the House and Senate. The House Speaker talked with reporters and the Senate President spoke with the press, each believing that somehow they could put the proper spin on the situation to make themselves look like they were the champion in this fight.

This tired ritual will likely not have the effect they desire. The citizens of the state are fed up with the years of futility as they watch their schools suffer, colleges and universities on the verge of closure, community members being denied social services, and local vendors not being paid for services provided to the state. There are no winners among the legislators or constitutional officers in this fight, and the citizens of the state are far beyond the point of being swayed by a press conference, campaign mailer, or robocall.

The powers that be have let the state’s current fiscal situation become so dire that, no matter when or how they ever come to a budget agreement, there will be no political “winner” among them. There will be no victory lap. The choices will be difficult and the final budget outcome will likely be nothing to be celebrated. But hard choices will be necessary in order for the state to move forward.

The governor and General Assembly must reach a budget agreement before the end of June. The patience of the good citizens of Illinois has reached its collective end.