This month marked a change in the political landscape of our great state. After 12 years of one-party leadership in Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner began his term on Jan. 12. Two days later, the 99th General Assembly was sworn in. Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton were re-elected to their posts.
On Jan. 15, We Ask America polled 1,026 registered voters whether Republican Gov. Rauner should try to solve the state’s problems by working to find common ground with the Democratic-controlled legislature.
An overwhelming 67 percent said they want Rauner to find common ground, while 22 percent said he should take a more confrontational approach.
For months, we’ve read and heard how dire the forecast of our state’s economic outlook.
With the income tax dropping from 5 percent to 3.75 percent Jan. 1, the state is poised to collect $5 billion less in revenue, as spending grows and nearly $7 billion of unpaid bills wait to be paid.
Some projections of unfunded pension liabilities place the deficit as high as $110 billion.
Solutions are painful. Eliminating a deficit requires spending cuts or increases in taxes. Neither is popular.
Years of avoiding tough choices and doing nothing have devastated the FY 2015 budget. Little has been offered to offset the temporary tax elimination. FY 2015 will be challenging. FY 2016 will be worse.
The state is constrained as to what it can cut. Illinois cannot cut debt service or pension payments. After adjusting for matching revenue, it would take an estimated 20 percent in cuts to remaining spending — including education, Medicaid, public safety and transportation — to eliminate the deficit.
Borrowing to cover deficits would make our current problems even worse. Pay-later financing is a major contributor to the issue. A temporary, short-term fix, pay-later financing has long-term ramifications that we are now realizing.
The state’s fiscal problems have been mounting for decades. One single policy option will not be enough to solve Illinois’ fiscal problems. Some painful, difficult decisions will need to be made.
Having to pay previous years’ bills now means Illinoisans will need to reduce their expectations for government services. Moreover, we must be prepared to pay more for government services, now and in the future.
Illinois needs a long-term plan to address these problems. Our leaders and elected officials need the discipline it will take to hold to that plan.
While the Democrats hold majority in the State House and Senate and Gov. Rauner is Republican, our state needs to work together to solve its current problems.
The Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce will continue to work with our business members and communities to share their needs and concerns. We look forward to working with our State elected officials to change Illinois’ future.
The chamber’s legislative agenda as well as local legislators’ contact information may be found on the chamber website. For updates on legislative activities, follow the chamber on Facebook and twitter.