Cardinals Opening Day against the Chicago Cubs is on the horizon, which is something most baseball fans can all look forward to. But there is something else I look forward to happening, and that is for both Democrats and Republicans to work together and approve a balanced state budget.
The Illinois General Assembly held its version of Opening Day on January 11, 2017 when all 118 representatives and 59 senators took the oath of office, marking the first day of business for the new legislature following the November election. It was a fresh start, a new year, and a real opportunity to accomplish what many promised to do after the election – pass a balanced budget. Yet here we are today, halfway through the season we call ‘session’ and the legislature has accomplished little to brag about in the record books except more losses and less victories for the taxpayers.
To make matters worse, two Senate Democrat Leaders recently went on the record to say they don’t believe we will have a budget until after the Governor’s election in November 2018. The unpaid bills are stacking up, our universities and community colleges are exhausting their emergency funds to stay open, healthcare providers are not getting paid. The lack of a state budget is continuing to harm our most vulnerable. The fact that some Democrats are already signaling they are giving up on the taxpayers and giving up on bipartisanship is outrageous.
House Republicans have repeatedly called for action on issues Illinois residents care about such as property tax relief for homeowners, redistricting reform that will give more power to the voters, not the politicians, and furthermore my Republican colleagues introduced a plan to ensure our State can pay down its massive pension debt. Unfortunately, the majority of House Democrats have not shown a willingness to work together on a balanced budget or compromise on any of the issues Illinois residents care about. Instead we are faced with silence and talk of giving up from the other side of the aisle.
The fact of the matter is, we need 90 lawmakers combined in the House and Senate to send a budget to the Governor. The path forward is simple and it begins with 60, 30, and 1. To enact a state budget it takes the House or Senate to introduce a bill, 60 votes to pass a bill in the House, 30 votes to pass a bill in the Senate, followed by the Governor’s signature. The point is, if 90 out of 177 lawmakers can hash out an agreement by compromising on proposals which include property tax relief for homeowners, redistricting reform, and a plan to pay down our pension debt, then it is very reasonable to anticipate the Governor will sign a budget into law and put an end to the two-year budget impasse.
We are approaching 90 days since the Illinois General Assembly’s Opening Day. It is time for both Republicans and Democrats to come together and reach an agreement on a balanced budget. My colleagues and I are ready to work together today, right here, right now. There are no more excuses, the Democrats must stop stalling and work with us to give the taxpayers a victory - not a loss following Opening Day.
-State Representative Charlie Meier