Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in Illinois
January 25, 2017
(Peoria) Journal Star
Reforms, reductions and revenue: Reachin' for a real budget
Among the first things that jumped out about the governor's state of the state address is that he is still dropping - make that droppin' - his "g."
Let us hope that the Legislature soon drops a budget on his desk, which has been missing - make that missin' - since Bruce Rauner entered office two years ago, far and away the most egregious and enduring example of fiscal irresponsibility in the nation.
Oh, we're just joshin' about the "g'' thing, as otherwise Rauner delivered a concise - 35 minutes, much appreciated - refreshingly disciplined and relatively conciliatory speech. At one point he even went off script to praise Senate leaders trying to reach a bipartisan budget compromise, though House Speaker Michael Madigan was conspicuously absent from that acknowledgement and thank you.
About that still-evolving budget agreement, which includes an income tax increase, let us say this: We can do the math. As painful a concession as it is an obvious one, there is no question that Illinois needs more revenue, so blot-out-the-sun large are its shortfalls due to previous governing incompetence - a projected $5.3 billion budget deficit by fiscal year's end, $11 billion in unpaid bills, $130 billion in pension liability. Cuts in that amount would be staggering, crippling not only essential investments in the state's future - in schools, infrastructure - but falling disproportionately and almost unforgivably on the state's most vulnerable.
That said, we cannot stomach any tax increases that fail to consider the ridiculous burden already being shouldered by Illinois residents long saddled not only with some of the worst representation in America but wages that are not keeping pace, that are not accompanied by a good-faith effort to also spend measurably less toward an ultimately sustainable balanced budget, that do not depart from business as usual, that still put partisan politics above pragmatic economics.
State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, is correct that "the state is in a very difficult position right now and it's time to start acting like it." We hope Madigan & Co. are listening.
To that end, we were glad to hear Rauner say that regulatory and tax reforms must be geared toward economic growth that is "higher than our rate of government spending growth," including changes to a workers compensation system and a tax code too tilted toward property taxes and bedrock corruption that make the decision for employers and citizens to leave Illinois all too easy. Rauner is right, "We are failing to be compassionate because we are failing to be competitive."
Beyond that, Rauner's proposal to "create a technology and innovation center here in the Midwest that can rival Silicon Valley or North Carolina's Research Triangle" was music to our ears, as we've pushed that very idea for decades with just the place for it - hugging an I-74 corridor that includes Champaign-Urbana and Peoria with a research university, an ag lab and some of the state's biggest employers in between. That the governor hasn't given up on legislators doing "the right thing" by passing "bills to put term limits and fair maps on the ballot" also is encouraging.
Finally, Rauner touched on Chicago's unacceptable violence and criminal justice reforms, on lead abatement and the truism that "nothing stops a bullet like a job" in the state's inner cities, on a public/private venture that would put a toll lane on I-55. And ultimately all of that must take a back seat right now to a real budget, which means the governor must be prepared to compromise, too, as well as exercise his influence with those who would torpedo any plan before it's even ready to leave the dock.
Good luck to them, good luck to us.
January 30, 2017
Scott Air Force Base left behind by The Left, but Right can make might for NGA
There is every logical reason to forget about the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency's western headquarters being built next to Scott Air Force Base.
1. Done deal. The Obama Administration already made the decision that our military's spy mapping should be done in a blighted, crime and drug-infested area of St. Louis as an urban renewal tool and make-good for the Ferguson, Missouri riots.
2. Wrong state color. Why would a Republican president do something to favor a very blue state over a red state? Everyone saw Missouri's U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt at the right hand of President Trump on Inauguration Day.
3. Out of focus. Little attention is likely to fall on this Midwestern issue when we are building walls, tossing out immigrant children and watching for Muslims.
Still, hope will not die because there is faith in this community. There is also faith that putting a defense intelligence agency yards from its biggest customer and in a secure zone with plenty of room to grow and public transit and an interstate remains, frankly, the right decision for our nation's defense.
Hope lives and grows with the trio of Republican congressmen from our area. Faith in our military community tells us the right decision will increase our might.
January 30, 2017
The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle
Our View: Rauner contract offer generous
AFSCME members across Illinois will begin voting Monday on whether to give their leaders the authority to strike.
We urge them to vote no.
Illinois' largest state employee union, AFSCME, has been at an impasse with Gov. Bruce Rauner over the terms of a new contract that has been under negotiation since July 2015.
The union that represents 38,000 state workers wants pay increases and other benefits that would cost Illinois taxpayers an additional $3 billion over the life of the four-year contract.
More reasonably, Rauner wants to freeze the salaries of state workers who are the highest paid in the country when adjusted for cost of living. He also wants employees to pay a higher premium toward health benefits but also have more options. Workers currently receive what the Affordable Care Act categorizes as a platinum plan, but they pay a bronze premium rate while taxpayers pick up the rest. Under Rauner's plan, employees could continue to pay a bronze premium but, like private sector employees, they would receive a bronze plan.
The governor's offer also includes bonuses for high performers and those who show up to work regularly instead of across-the-board pay hikes that award everyone equally, regardless performance. Rauner wants the state to be able to test employees for drugs or alcohol if there is reasonable suspicion an employee showed up to work under the influence. And he wants overtime pay to kick in after a 40-hour work week instead of the current 37.5 hours.
Rauner and 20 other state unions already have agreed to similar contract terms.
Given Illinois' fiscal condition - public pensions underfunded by almost $130 billion; a backlog of unpaid bills totaling more than $11 billion; a state budget crisis that has left Illinois' social service agencies and its most vulnerable residents in peril; a population so overburdened by taxes tens of thousands are fleeing annually - Rauner's offer is generous.
But AFSCME's leadership wants more from taxpayers and less accountability for its membership. So it has asked its members for the ability to call a strike. The vote lasts from Monday through Feb. 19. A "yes' vote doesn't necessarily mean a strike will happen, but we urge members to vote "no" for the sake of all of Illinois.
We also urge Rauner to hold strong to his contract terms.
For the state to have a chance to get out of its current fiscal mess, it needs to change the way it conducts business. Holding firm on union contracts is one of those necessary changes.