By Adam Schalke
It’s been an open secret for quite awhile now, but the state of Illinois is as broke as broke can be. For almost three months now, Illinois has operated without a budget and key services provided by the state, services that range from higher educational assistance to infrastructural development, have been put on hold while the budget impasse continues.
With no evidence of a budget deal in sight as well as ongoing contract disputes with state employee unions, one must wonder; who is responsible for this dysfunction? Who has their fingerprints on this trainwreck?
To find out, citizens need look no further than Governor Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan.
For almost the entirety of Governor Rauner’s term, Springfield has been the epicenter of a clash between the governor’s mammoth war chest of personal campaign funds and the Speaker Madigan’s vast political infrastructure that he has spent three decades building. The really ugly part about this ordeal is that there’s no real “good guy” to back in this fight. Mike Madigan held the Speaker’s gavel for 30 years and the state Democratic Party chair for almost two decades, and while he alone cannot be assigned blame for the state’s pension shortfall and other economic hardships, he has had the most power for the longest time in Springfield and yet he has largely been unwilling to do enough to overcome the problems.
Governor Rauner is not any better. Rather than expressing a desire to work in good faith with Democrats, Rauner has been nothing but belligerent and uncompromising in his dealings with the General Assembly, proposing budgets that offer nothing to Democratic priorities and pass the state’s economic burden onto the poor and middle class in the form of steep spending cuts to public services. This resulted in a headbutt with Madigan that brought the state to where it is today.
For now, it appears that the next three years in Illinois will be little more than a game of Rauner versus Madigan. If only there was a third figure in Springfield who could work between Rauner and Madigan to get things done- but wait, there is! That person could be Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago).
It was Cullerton who had the guts to call out the Quinn-Madigan pension plan of 2013 as unconstitutional (which Illinois Supreme Court decided that it was), it was Cullerton who reached across the aisle to work with republicans on legislation regarding property tax freezes, and it was Cullerton who first stood up to Rauner’s corporate-giveaway of a budget and called for legitimate compromise. If he and his caucus band together and demand reason from both the Speaker and the Governor, then maybe the state can be put on a real road to recovery.