Editorial: Uncomfortable implications of inaction on Illiniois budget's 'grand bargain'

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted1/25/2017 6:50 PM
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  • Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner delivers his State of the State address in the Illinois House chamber Wednesday.

    Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner delivers his State of the State address in the Illinois House chamber Wednesday. Associated Press

In his 2017 State of the State address Wednesday, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner acknowledged with repeated emphasis how difficult it is to find a breakthrough for the state's two-year budget logjam.

Throughout the day, the state Senate put an exclamation point on that observation, with leaders scrambling to find enough support to keep their 13-point "grand bargain" alive.

With the question of whether the Senate would manage a vote on the proposals still hanging in the air during his noon address, Rauner went off-script briefly to recognize the compromise hashed out by Republican Minority Leader Christine Radogno, a Lemont Republican, and Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat.

"Thank you for working so hard to try to come together on a bipartisan basis to find a compromise to get a truly balanced budget with changes to the system to help job creators and protect taxpayers," Rauner said, adding, "We all know this is very, very difficult. There's a lot of arrows. Please don't give up. Please keep working. Please keep trying. The people of Illinois need you to succeed."

They do indeed. But by the end of the day, the Senate had not yet managed a planned floor vote, and the slow going has worrisome implications for any real compromise.

It's worth noting that beyond his noncommital plea and an interesting but generally unhelpful proposal on corporate taxes from House Democrats responding to Rauner's address, the Senate leaders got precious little substantive assistance outside their body.

Don't get us wrong. As we wrote on Sunday, we have strong concerns about some facets of the deal Radogno and Cullerton hammered out. If it manages somehow to move forward, we would hope to see continued refinements, especially regarding the income tax increase and the vast expansion of casino gambling it calls for. We're also disappointed that the arrangement makes no serious provision for meaningful cuts in spending.

But we also know that a successful compromise, one that solves the state's problems for the long term, will include features that we will not like as well as features we will. We will continue to speak out against those we oppose, as we expect lawmakers to do as well, but we will also support what we and most Illinoisans have been demanding for years, a viable budget framework that systemically addresses the state's pathetic financial picture and abysmal climate for job creation.

Toward that end, Senate leaders produced at least a reasonable starting point for discussion.

That they could not muster the votes on Wednesday to move the package to the House for debate and possible revision is disquieting. We hope it's not a sign of a reluctance on both sides to stand up to the significant special interests lined up to fight provisions that hurt them personally without concern for the impact the budget stalemate has had on every interest in the state.

The beauty of the Cullerton-Radogno package is that it is not necessarily the final statement on compromise. But it does provide a foundation for a solution, and more important, it throws down the gauntlet to other state leaders to get involved in finding a solution.

At the end of the day Wednesday, the outlook for the Senate's "grand bargain" was still unclear. Let's hope reluctant senators as well as the House and the governor can catch the spirit and pick up the momentum in the days ahead.

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