* From John Bouman, President of the Shriver Center and head of the Responsible Budget Coalition, with emphasis added…
Like most hostage-takers, Governor Rauner knew that if his demands were not met, at some point the hostages would have to begin to die, literally or figuratively. And, sure enough, the dying is underway.
For months now, thousands of service-providers have been making layoffs and reducing services because of the state not paying them for services rendered. Last week the situation went to another level. Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) announced late last week that, due solely to the state’s failure to pay over $6 million for services LSSI has rendered since last July, it is laying off 750 workers—43% of its workforce—and shutting down vital services for almost 5,000 people. The termination of these services—including residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation, mental health counseling, and help for homebound senior citizens—is not a consequence of a budget cut or a policy change; it is simply caused by the state’s failure to pay for services already rendered—one side keeping a contract, the other welching.
LSSI, by all accounts, is an exemplary, responsible, low-overhead, values-driven provider of essential services to people deeply in need. LSSI partners with the state to implement state policies. But LSSI’s “partner” turned it into a hostage and let LSSI and the people it serves be casualties of the hostage stand-off. […]
In our form of government, the executive branch, led by the Governor, has the duty to “execute” state laws and policies—to govern. The Governor has decided instead that those laws and policies and the people they are meant to serve should be hostages.
Governor Rauner has every right to pursue a policy agenda, which he can do without abdicating his constitutional duty to govern. He can push his agenda through the legislative process. If he is forced to compromise because of political realities, then he can work to win more elections for people who agree with him. Through it all, however, he should have the sense of duty to govern. It is time to end the hostage stand-off and return to responsible governance.
The Responsible Budget Coalition has been pretty diplomatic before now. And Bouman is not known for being a hothead - just the opposite. Apparently, the gloves are now off.
As Wordslinger has mentioned in comments a lot lately, what if Gov. Pat Quinn had refused to sign a budget until the minimum wage (his main campaign promise) was increased or a millionaire’s surtax was passed? The howls from the Tribune and others would’ve certainly been deafening, even if he’d stood firm and refused to sign a budget until issues the newspaper (and now Rauner) supports, like term limits and redistricting reform.
I have said for years that we need to be more pro-business in this state, but we don’t have to do this by thrashing labor unions. He needs to find another way.