Illinois State Senators Square off and Share Competing Ideas

Illinois lawmakers are back to the drawing board when it comes to figuring out a balanced budget for the state. For the most part, the Democrats and their legislative leaders are wary about cutting programs which are popular among their constituents and which they see as important services, and legislative Republicans and Gov. Bruce Rauner want to make sure that the state isn't spending more than it can afford and that any spending is accompanied by business reforms.

Democratic Sen. Dan Kotowski explained his stance on the budget battle at Reboot Illinois. Illinoisans can't drop their investment in people who need state support, he says:

As much as Governor Rauner wants to frame the budget passed by the General Assembly as a battle between the Speaker of the House and him, the budget that will soon lie on his desk is really a battle between cutting essential services and investing in the people of Illinois.

Away from the partisan bickering and the political posturing is a budget or investment plan that proposes to fund our obligations, pay old bills, and empower our greatest resource: the residents of our state. Contrary to the Governor's introduced budget in February, this budget will keep property taxes low, make college more affordable and maintain programs for children living with autism, epilepsy and mental health challenges.

This plan is bold because it includes the single-largest, education investment in our state's history and ensures that over 2,046,000 public school children have the chance to get a world-class education. It provides a foundation so that 432,000 community college and university students have the opportunity to obtain a degree and secure good-paying jobs when they graduate. It helps 150,000 of these same students and their hard-working families have relief from the crushing burden of rising tuition costs.

This plan is smart because it recognizes that Illinois has 30,000 available manufacturing jobs and understands the importance of having a workforce with the skills necessary to stay in their current positions or to make a cost-effective transition into their new jobs. To that end, thousands of people will receive technical training so that they can be an asset for the companies for which they work and so they can, most important, earn a paycheck, take care of their families and climb the ladder of success.

This budget also passes the moral test that measures a society by how it treats its most vulnerable members. It ensures that 104,000 seniors have the dignity of staying in their own homes; provides 18,500 children and adults with autism and epilepsy the chance to receive life-changing and life-saving support; and offers 15,198 young people who have suffered from abuse and neglect the care required to confront their trauma and thrive as adults.

Read the rest of Kotowski's thoughts at Reboot Illinois.

And Republican Sen. Matt Murphy shared his view on the situation. he says the state has been run a certain way for years, which isn't working out very well. It's time to change course:

May 31st is the customary end of the legislative session in Springfield. Not this year though. This year a political storm is brewing in our state capital.

A couple of months ago, I wrote on this page that we need to take Illinois in a new direction and that our leaders must implement a big vision for a brighter future for our state. With a strong new governor in Bruce Rauner and a clear mandate from the people to fundamentally change the way Springfield does business, I was eager to join my Democrat friends across the aisle in beginning the difficult work of making Illinois great again. Hope sprung eternal.

But then, as May 31st neared, it became increasingly clear that while Governor Rauner and we legislative Republicans were willing to compromise to help move our state forward, Speaker Madigan and too many legislative Democrats were not. This same conclusion was also reached by newspaper editorial boards all across our state.

When the governor and legislative Republicans proposed freezing property taxes, the Democrats opposed us. When we proposed litigation reforms to bring the cost of doing business down and create more jobs, the Democrats opposed us. When we proposed reforms to how legislative districts are drawn to curtail the gerrymandering that skews our elections, the Democrats opposed us. When we proposed term limits, the Democrats opposed us.

Instead of working with us to make Illinois great again, Speaker Madigan and the Democrats zealously defended the status quo, which the people of Illinois rejected last Fall when they elected Governor Rauner.

Legislative Democrats are so wedded to their one-party rule playbook of the past twelve years that they passed yet another deficit spending budget -- a $36.3 billion budget when Illinois will take in $32 billion in revenue. They oppose reforms but want a tax increase to fill this deficit. It sounds like more of the same irresponsibility that got us in this mess in the first place. Hardly the big vision for a brighter future the voters and I hoped for this session.

Read the rest of Murphy's thoughts at Reboot Illinois.