Celebration Time? State Legislature Passes Budget, Sorta

MATT DIETRICH: Madeleine, I hope you don't mind that I'm typing with one hand while holding a lit sparkler in the other. I'm getting an early start on my July 4 celebration in honor of the amazing action today in Springfield.

MADELEINE DOUBEK: Matt, a whole sparkler? What you call amazing in your hometown, the approval of some 12-month funding for all levels of schooling in Illinois and a six-month stopgap budget for most else, is good, but not quite amazing. It's half a sparkler that fizzles out in a matter of seconds. Do you have any more sparkler-spending plans for the rest of us in Illinois?

MATT: Oh wait. I'm not celebrating the non-budget that passed in Springfield. I'm joyous for the many Illinois lawmakers who managed to delay making hard decisions on taxes and spending until after they're safely re-elected. Splendid job on all sides! This calls for a bottle rocket.

MADELEINE: Non budget? What-chu talkin' bout, Willis? House Speaker Mike Madigan is telling me right now all about how he's made sure the middle class is protected because he made sure the Governor dropped his personal agenda. Oh, but wait, he just admitted our work is not done. Is that what you mean, Matt?

MATT: A six-month plan to help state government limp to the finish line of calendar year 2017 is not a budget. A budget will require raising taxes and making some people angry with cuts. Hard decisions. I hereby deploy a Sizzlin Skyburst Barrage® in honor of their avoidance!

MADELEINE: Oh, Matt. I hear you and I'll raise you a sparkler. I say people are already angry. Not enough of them, to be sure, but with one million people already having lost services and higher education still taking a cut, I think the anger will rise by Nov. 8.

MATT: As we've discussed before, most of them won't have much chance to vent on Election Day. But we saw a lot of anger coming to the surface when college students and social services protested at the Capitol this year. I think all sides know they're on thin ice now so maybe we'll see real results when they return to Springfield on Nov. 15.

MADELEINE:
 Well, Matt, I hope you're right. I know you're right that most of them won't have much chance to vent because more than two-thirds of lawmakers up for election don't have any real competition. Don't know if it's good or bad, but certainly a coincidence that redistricting reform was being argued in Cook County Court at the same time the stopgap budget was debated.

They've wasted a year and a half that could have been spent overhauling tax and spending policies in this state and doing something about all these special funds where they magically found money. Although state Rep. David McSweeney called to tell me he voted no because he thinks this is going to make our debt worse and sets us all up for a massive tax increase.

MATT:  I have no idea what Rep. McSweeney or Gov. Rauner define as "massive," but there's no way we right the state's ship and pay $8 billion in back bills without more tax revenue. We also need to get our workers' compensation insurance rates down, and that can be done without throwing the middle class into the streets. Oh November will be so much fun when this starts all over again.

By the way, I bet Illinois could make a nice tax haul if we'd legalize fireworks like Indiana and Missouri.

MADELEINE: 
We absolutely can bring our workers' comp rates down without throwing the middle class into the streets. We also can find some way to provide some property tax relief, which we need more than ever. I've seen plenty of local governments "preparing" for the impasse and state cuts by levying as much as possible. And hey, Chicago, guess what? The state stopgap budget deal gives the Chicago school board an invitation to pass a property tax for teachers' pensions. Can you say, "Give me another tax increase, please!"

All in all, the politicians were more careful about patting themselves on the back and for good reason -- You've heard of a day late and a dollar short? Well, the stopgap is half a plan one and one-half years late. Wave your sparkler now, Matt. Next week, we redouble the fight to fix Illinois. Whadya say we launch #ILNotEnough?

MATT: An excellent point to end on, Madeleine. Happy Independence Day to you and all Reboot Illinois readers. I leave you with four words of wisdom: Light fuse, get away.