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updated: 6/8/2017 9:49 AM

Why you can't tune out the next state election

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If you want another example of how Illinois government failures hurt all of us in the state, look no further than Jake Griffin's column that appeared Wednesday in the Daily Herald.

It details the suburbs' share of $14.7 billion in past-due bills for state contracts, on which we taxpayers are paying interest.

About $5.6 billion of that is owed to contractors and nonprofits in the Chicago area, $2.2 billion of it in suburban Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.

Companies that are waiting for their money range from an Oak Brook insurance manager for the Medicaid health program for the poor, disabled and elderly to the "seven figures" a small-business owner in St. Charles says he's owed for getting rid of leaking underground fuel tanks.

The overdue bills translate into jobs not filled, offices not rented, services not provided. It's a big drag on the economy, and it's no wonder Illinois lost more residents in 2016 than any other state.

Nor is it surprising to hear speculation that some vendors may quit doing business with the state.

"Who are you getting to do the work that's willing to wait months, if ever to get paid?" Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, said. "We've got to pass a budget to be sure we're getting the best workers."

While the state flounders, at least nine people already are ramping up for possibly the most expensive campaign for governor in Illinois history. The candidates have raised $82 million already, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, even though we're a long ways away from the March 20 primary.

The millions of campaign dollars mean you'll be hearing a lot from the candidates for governor.

Some state legislators also are up for election next year, and you'll be hearing a lot from them, too, with all the candidates likely throwing around blame for the three-year state budget standoff that spawned the bill backlog.

We ask that you not tune out of the debate. We ask that you look beyond the political ads in assessing whether any candidate has a sound solution for getting out of the budget abyss (especially any that claim we'll get out of this mess without a state tax increase).

We'll do our best to provide that information and analysis on an election that's crucial to Illinois' future. You don't need to look any further than Griffin's column to see that the state's finances affect all of us.

We hope you take that as a challenge to be informed and, come next year, cast a well-considered vote.

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