Illinois fiscal failures continue

Allison Wheeler, Editor-In-Chief

Illinois residents and students are unhappy to hear that there will be an even longer wait for a balanced budget to be passed for the State of Illinois.  For the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the state has been without budget and running on a court-ordered stopgap spending plan which expired on Dec. 31. This temporary budget has helped hold together the financial basics of the state but there was never a long-term plan made for a stalemate lasting over an entire fiscal year.
John O’Connor of the Pekin Times said that over one million people, including mental health patients, substance and domestic abuse sufferers, the elderly and students in both primary and secondary institutions, have suffered the largest loss.  Now Governor Bruce Rauner has until Feb. 15 to pass the new budget with the backing of the Illinois Senate but Rauner has little optimism that this will be happening.
Since 2015, he has been at a standstill with the Democratic leaders of the Illinois Senate on several issues with the yearly budget. According to Doug Wilson of the Herald-Whig, over eight proposals have been approved including a raise of individual income tax rates from 3.75 to 4.95 percent, and the corporate tax rate would rise from 5.25 up to 7 percent.  With just these changes, Illinois revenue would be up $4.1 billion. However, Rauner is holding out for several things that Democratic leaders are fighting against, such as paying off $11 billion of overdue bills, expanding the legality of gambling, consolidating local governments, increasing the minimum wage and even ending pensions for certain lawmakers.
Tom Schumba of NBC Chicago News also reported that Rauner is pushing for term limits of lawmakers to limit a politicians’ power, as well as a property tax freeze. However, O’Connor has said that the Democratic Leaders, “…refuse to negotiate anything but dollars and cents in the terms of the budget.”
Gov. Rauner held a Facebook Live event in the beginning of December concerning the upcoming state budget deadline. NBC Chicago News quoted the governor, who said that he believed the Democrats were stalling, wanting to force another stopgap plan through statewide crisis and meltdown of the human and social services of the state. The longer it takes the state to pass a budget, the more it will take to fix the damage caused by its absence. O’Connor reported that if there are no changes in this standstill by June 30, the state will be $5.3 billion short to cover the basic expenses, causing the state to have to borrow more money on top of its total debt of $35.55 billion debts.
Students will be reminded that, even with the lack of action from our state legislature, Lake Land Community College has prepared for a crisis such as this.  In May 2016, in an article produced by The Navigator titled, ‘President Officially Reaches Out to Students,’ College President Josh Bullock spoke about how despite an $18 million deficit in the college’s budget, due to planning starting two years previously, he had high hopes for a lower impact on the student body. With the preemptive actions taken by LLC, students have been able to still have classes and assistance available to them from various places on campus.
The lack of action from our legislature is a strong indicator that something needs to be done.
According to the 2016 Fiscal Ranking by State on mercatus.org, Illinois is 47 in fiscal rankings, with 50 being the worst. It is reported that our liabilities exceed our assets by 48 percent and, in order for the state to function, it relies on debt to continue on every year. With this standstill in our yearly budget, it can only effect our rating negatively.
Terrence Antonio James from the Chicago Tribune said, “All of this bickering makes the state an embarrassment to the rest of the country and leaves local governments up in the air on how to serve their residents… Our state officials must put their differences aside and make concessions.  The longer the state goes without a budget, the more difficult it will be for Illinois to recover, if it can recover at all.”
Even former State Senator John Sullivan agrees saying, “This has to end… This is yet another tragic case of real people’s lives being victimized by this ridiculous impasse.  I would urge the governor and legislators, regardless of party, to come together with a solution.  Too many lives are being impacted and ruined.”
Residents of Illinois can agree with these observations as services and funding that have been cut and continue to be lacking as the Senate and Gov. Rauner continue to disagree with what they believe is best for the budget. In fact, many Illinois residents are moving to other states in look for refuge from this fiscal indecision. (Look for another article in this publication titled, ‘Anywhere Else…Or Bust!’ for more information) And this only furthers the budget crisis because as residents leave, so do the taxes they pay that they bring into the states revenue. Illinoisans can only hope that this fiscal standstill will come to an end before the middle of February and no stopgap spending plan will be issued for the next year causing us to fall further in fiscal failure.

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