The following is an opinion piece written by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek:
"You're looking for hope? This will be a short conversation!"
That was David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, returning my call. Yepsen spent 34 years covering politics for the Des Moines Register. I'd left him a message asking to talk over some ideas for people who are fed up and frustrated with Illinois' budget stalemate.
Hope is needed. Desperately. Last week on Reboot Illinois, I wrote a column wondering, "Why aren't all of us up in arms and screaming about our state?" It got more reaction than anything I'd written in some time. All of us should be up in arms. I think if we were, and if enough of us truly let these officials hear it, the impasse would end. Every day this budget mess prevails is another day that costs us more money and more spending cuts that hurt loved ones and friends.
Comptroller Leslie Munger, who was appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, told WROK-AM radio last month that a higher, 5 percent income tax won't be enough now because our debt is so high.
Politicians do listen and respond to public opinion, eventually. That's why Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel keeps tweaking his tax and fee plans. Gov. Bruce Rauner's ratings slipped in a Simon institute poll recently and he made some stops around there shortly thereafter. Coincidence? Maybe.
So, what can you do to help demand better? Yepsen and I have some solutions, and hope:
1. "I do think it is effective for people to personally buttonhole lawmakers ... tell them that you want something done," he said.
An email helps if you've got an email the legislator actually looks at, he says. Reboot Illinois also offers Sound Off, a tool that allows you to send a message, all at once, to your individual state representative and senator along with Rauner, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and the two Republican caucus leaders.
2. Use the power of social media. It's worked wonders already. People have a bad experience with a retailer, they take to social media. People want to show support for breast cancer or marriage for all, they change their profile pictures. The moves go viral and change happens.
Yepsen adds, "To be effective, you've got to be civil." Communicate you know there will be pain. "It's good to tell a Democrat we know we have to sacrifice," he said. "We know we need cuts. It's good for a Republican legislator to hear that we know we're going to have to pay more. It can't all be fixed by cuts."
Here are the other six ways in which you can help end the Illinois state budget stalemate and bring some hope to the state.