* OK, so we’ve heard from House Speaker Michael Madigan and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. I thought you’d also like to hear from social service advocates, who lobbied hard for the higher education “stopgap” bill in order to open a door for another stopgap for their programs. Here’s Emily Miller…
Since last week’s bi-partisan agreement to provide emergency cash to higher education, a narrative of regret and finger-pointing has emerged from officials who are afraid the move displays political weakness. On the contrary, reaching a bi-partisan agreement on the merits of a budget related issue shows promise.
To be clear, the agreement was a far cry from a solution. The emergency cash infusion to higher education will run out by the end of the summer, and the ongoing damage to human service providers who got left out of this deal entirely will continue to mount. We’re still on track to have upwards of $10 billion in unpaid bills by the end of the fiscal year in June. We still have no realistic plan to pay FY16’s unpaid bills, let alone an entire FY17 budget for the year that begins July 1.
But in this toxic political environment, the ability of rank and file members to sit across from each other and agree on something is a welcome change. The ability of leaders to stop themselves from tanking the deal shows progress.
Still, this crisis will continue to worsen without the revenue necessary to perform all of the most basic functions of state government, including K-12 education, higher education and human services.
Eventually lawmakers and leaders are going to run out of pots of emergency money to throw at crises, and they’ll have to admit to each other that the ability of our state to pass balanced budgets in the long-term requires new revenue. But the agreement reached last week proves that rank-and-file lawmakers have what it takes to reach past the political rhetoric that has dominated budget talks over the last year and really hear each other.
If elected officials keep talking and listening to each other, they’ll be able to negotiate a responsible budget that invests in children, families and communities across Illinois.
Policy and Advocacy Director
Voices for Illinois Children
I couldn’t agree more.