State must instill bipartisanship as routine for creating budgets
For the first time since Gov. Bruce Rauner took office three and a half years ago, Illinoisans will begin the next fiscal year with a budget intact.
Social service providers across the state will be able to plan a full year of programming to connect children, families, and seniors with the tools they need to build better lives.
Work crews will be able to arrive on the job site without worrying about whether they will be sent home because there's no state budget.
Students at our colleges and universities can start the academic year knowing that their MAP scholarships will be funded.
That's how it is supposed to work. But for years, Bruce Rauner stood in the way of a state budget, holding it hostage for his special interest agenda. Time and again, he didn't just derail the process, he refused to negotiate and even vetoed a bipartisan budget last summer. This year, lawmakers had to sideline the failed governor in order to get the job done.
As a result of Rauner's failure, Illinois went 736 days without a budget. Two years. Our social service agencies ended programs and shut their doors.
Jobs and businesses were lost.
Our debt skyrocketed, five universities fell to junk bond status, and Illinois received the lowest credit rating of any state -- ever.
Real and lasting damage was done to working families across our state. It will take years to dig our way out. What we need is a budget process that acknowledges how much we have to rebuild and provides a vision for where we want to go.
We can work in a bipartisan fashion on goals like quality education, good paying jobs, and healthcare. We can work together to create budgets that get our state back on track.
For example, we must ensure that our children are offered quality early childhood education so that they're ready to start kindergarten. Our high school students must be put on a path to college or career readiness.
We must stabilize and reinvigorate our public institutions of higher education and make college more affordable so we keep homegrown talent in Illinois.
In Springfield, we need a governor who will work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to invest in infrastructure, so we can keep our roads and bridges repaired, our public transportation systems moving, and our water and energy clean. It must be an ongoing priority -- not an election-year stunt.
Budgeting is a process that works best when everyone comes to the table to work in good faith for the people of Illinois and when we negotiate through the lenses of compassion and fiscal responsibility.
This has not been the practice of the past four years in Springfield. It's time for new leadership to ensure it is the practice for the next four.
J.B. Pritzker, a Chicago an entrepreneur and businessman who has focused on early childhood education throughout his career, is Democratic candidate for Illinois governor.