Sunday, June 12, 2016

My View: Blame game won't break budget stalemate






By Steve Stadelman

Posted Jun. 11, 2016 at 4:06 PM

As legendary radio commentator Paul Harvey always said, here’s the rest of the story.
Gov. Bruce Rauner recently stopped in Rockford as part of a statewide tour to blast Democrats and twist arms to support a six-month stopgap budget.
He could have saved the state some gas money.
I’m sure many Democrats would support a temporary solution to the ongoing stalemate that has left Illinois dysfunctional and less attractive to businesses.
In fact, Senate Democrats suggested the idea first, but the governor and Republican leaders rejected it. Suddenly, two days later, on the last day of session, the governor held a news conference to pitch the stopgap measure. He demanded the General Assembly approve a spending plan that same day, even though the bills that were introduced needed at least three days to pass both chambers.
But, hey, that’s politics.
Having covered politicians for many years as a news reporter and now holding elected office myself, I realize trying to shape public perception is part of the process.
Here’s what else the governor didn’t mention:
— Senate Democrats, myself included, voted against House Speaker Michael Madigan’s budget, which the governor says was unbalanced.
— Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and House unanimously passed a stopgap bill to provide an immediate lifeline to struggling businesses that are owed money for providing needed social services to seniors, the disabled and those coping with mental illness. That bill sits on the governor’s desk a month later.
No matter your political viewpoint, the reality is Democrats need to work with the governor to end this impasse.
There are parts of his so-called “turnaround agenda” I can support: property tax relief, government consolidation, redistricting reform and continued efforts to lower workers’ compensation costs for businesses.
I have philosophical differences with the governor in how the state can best promote economic development. I believe a strong education system and qualified workers are key to keeping and attracting businesses. I don’t believe taking away employees’ collective bargaining rights and policies that lower wages lead to economic growth.
But we live in a time of divided government. That means the only way out of this mess is to compromise and find middle ground. Both sides aren’t going to get everything they want and will have to accept some things they don’t want. Divided government can be healthy by forcing moderation.

The governor likes to pin the state’s financial problems over the past 30 years on Democrats. But Illinois has had Republican governors for 18 of those years, and it was a Republican-controlled Senate and House that approved a pension payment plan that’s squeezing our budget today. The bottom line is: Both parties are clearly accountable.

So let’s stop the name-calling and finger-pointing. Attacking those on the other side of the bargaining table generally doesn’t make it easier to reach a deal. Instead of focusing on the November election, we need to work on getting a budget now.
State Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, represents the 34th district.

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