After two years of an unprecedented stalemate, Illinois has finally enacted a state budget. Since Illinois last had a budget 2015, our state has buckled under the pressure of unpaid contracts or severely late payments, resulting in layoffs, program closures, the crumbling of necessary nonprofits, uncertainty for our business community, and dire fiscal instability for our higher education systems. It was beyond time to act.
This week the General Assembly finally sent the Governor a budget. Despite the bipartisan roll call, the Governor promptly vetoed the legislation, but in a second act of courage, members of both parties and both chambers overrode his vetoes. Almost a dozen members of Governor Rauner’s own party stood in solidarity with the state, not their party leader. We are grateful to every single legislator who took several difficult votes this week. They are true public servants.
“We should all be embarrassed that we ended up here in the first place,” said state Rep. Theresa Mah (D-Chicago). “But that both sides of the aisle came together to get this done gives me hope that we really can put together meaningful policies that move our state forward.”
The budget is not perfect by any means. Despite the income tax increase, it also includes significant cuts. Furthermore, the budget does not address the debt we accrued during and, this is important, because of the impasse.
However, the choice our elected officials made this week was between our state’s survival and letting Illinois burn to the ground. It will take us years, maybe decades to dig ourselves out of the hole we created during the stalemate. Passing this budget was a crucial and necessary first step. We can now begin to rebuild (and Reimagine!) Illinois.