Editorial: Lawmakers made encouraging budget progress, but we need and expect more

On Wednesday, on our front page together with our newspaper brethren across Illinois, we said "Enough."

Today, we say "Not Enough."

As is their way, state politicians from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to Democratic Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Democratic Senate President John Cullerton to rank-and-file lawmakers, all kicked the proverbial can down the road one more time. The rest of us get to wait until at least after the November election for a long-term solution to the state's prolonged and ugly financial mess.

That said, the governor and General Assembly did approve a Band-Aid budget that will allow schools to open on time in the fall and give some relief to social services, colleges and universities and early childhood and other programs that need an infusion of promised state money to keep operating. Perhaps it could be a sign of promise that something will come of all the waiting.

"Today we witnessed true bipartisanship and compromise," said GOP state Rep. Ed Sullivan of Mundelein. "We now can enter Fiscal Year 2017 knowing all of Illinois' schools will open on time and with full funding of the foundation level per student. Even more important, as discussions continue on a balanced, full-year budget, schoolchildren and their families are removed from the crossfire."

Pardon us if we don't cheer too loudly. Lawmakers deserve credit for managing to accomplish what they haven't been able to do for a year and a half - produce a working budget - and their rhetoric of bipartisanship after the vote suggests a willingness to work together that might even be encouraging. But we certainly cannot stop here.

Politically, it allows the state's elected officials to go home and wave and smile in Fourth of July parades, saying they were successful in getting a budget passed, no matter how short-term it is.

"Today, I chose to invest in Illinois," said Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, " ... by voting for a budget that reflects the state's priorities."

Those are welcome sentiments. Let's hope lawmakers are still expressing them six months from now rather than falling back after the election on the same tired excuses they give every time - that it's "the other guy" who is the reason nothing gets done. They'll always revert to that theme unless the little guy, the taxpayer, continues to rise up and say, "Enough!" That's the message that needs to drive this fall's legislative campaigns.

Newspapers expressed that message forcefully this week and citizens added their voices. For the moment, it appears lawmakers listened. We hope this agreement is a sign they'll continue to hear that message during the months ahead.

Following the vote, Palatine Republican Matt Murphy, who helped negotiate some of the language of the agreement, declared, "This is a plan that Illinois can realistically afford now ... We proved today that party affiliation doesn't have to dictate compromise. Lawmakers can work together to find responsible and affordable solutions that provide for our state and protect our taxpayers."

Time will tell. We are happy that parents don't have to worry about what to do with their kids when school is supposed to start. We're happy that the most vulnerable state citizens will continue to get services. In fact, we join with them in a sigh of relief. But, like people across the state, we're weary of last-minute temporary measures. We expect more, and continue to look for those true leaders who can make it happen.

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