Illinois has gone 11 months without a fully funded state budget for FY16 and, on May 31, the spring legislatieve session will likely adjourn without an FY17 budget. While Governor Rauner and the state legislature continue to fight over non-budget political agendas, their lack of action on a responsible budget with adequate revenue continues to devastate families and communities across Illinois. State universities have announced significant layoffs and remain on the verge of closing, many social service agencies have shut down programs or closed their doors, and vulnerable people continue to lose services they need.
Despite the dire effects of this budget impasse, no resolution seems imminent. Last week, the proposal for a constitutional amendment for a Fair Tax (HJRCA 59), which would have raised $1.9 billion in new revenue under the proposed rates in HB 689, failed to pass by the deadline necessary to put it on the ballot this fall. The resolution was not called for a vote on the floor of either chamber.
Governor Rauner’s strong public opposition stopped any bipartisan support for the measure and Speaker Madigan did not call it for a vote because it would have likely failed on a partisan roll call. As has been the case for over a year, this was more politics as usual from the Governor and the Speaker, while the needs of students, children, and seniors in our state continue to be disregarded. The Fair Tax, a viable long-term solution to our budget problems, was ignored and is not an option again for at least two years, when it can be placed on the ballot for voters to decide.
Scripture says, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48). Our state legislators and Governor have been given great authority and entrusted with the responsibility to provide the basic services the people of our state need. They have failed thoroughly at this task and it is time that we demand more from them.
Governor Rauner must stop holding the budget hostage in the name of his political agenda. Speaker Madigan must stop the inaction motivated by winning a political battle with the Governor. Representatives and Senators from both parties must have the courage to demand that their leaders put political agendas aside and pass a responsible budget with adequate revenue to fund education and the social services people need to survive.
Many revenue options still exist that could end this budget impasse and put Illinois back on the right path. Now more than ever, we must continue to challenge our legislators to have courage and pursue the revenue options that can end this crisis before more irreparable damage is done.