* Haley BeMiller at the Tribune…
Democrats and Republicans briefly put aside their differences Thursday to honor a longtime Springfield insider known for working across the aisle, saying his pragmatic approach should serve as inspiration to break the unprecedented budget impasse.
Stephen Schnorf spent 22 years in state government and held a variety of positions during his tenure, including budget director under former Republican Govs. Jim Edgar and George Ryan. Schnorf died last month of pancreatic cancer.
His memorial was held in an ornate committee room, a rare honor that drew a crowd of family, friends and colleagues, including Edgar and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. As speakers reflected on their fond memories of Schnorf, some pointed to his ability to rise above partisan politics to solve problems. […]
Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, echoed Edgar’s sentiments, calling Schnorf “the soldier for the state of Illinois.”
“He was a doer, a thinker and also a strategist of how to make this great state work for all of us,” he said. “Not red, not blue – make our state work for us.”
If you missed it yesterday, the event can be seen by clicking here.
* Gov. Edgar recounted a long list of his administration’s achievements, attributing many of them to Schnorf. He also referenced a poll taken at the end of his tenure by the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University which showed, he said, that “the public overwhelmingly thought that Illinois government was doing their job. The best numbers we ever received before or since. And, again, Steve deserves a lot of credit for that.”
I found a reference to that poll in Jim Nowlan’s book “Fixing Illinois: Politics and Policy in the Prairie State.” According to the book, the poll found that 51 percent of Illinoisans were satisfied with the state’s direction, compared to 10 percent who weren’t satisfied.
Imagine that. Half the people liked the direction of the state. Now, compare that to a poll taken earlier this month…
(W)ould you say that things in Illinois are going in the right direction, or have they pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track?
12% RIGHT DIRECTION
82% WRONG TRACK
4% NO OPINION (DO NOT READ)
2% REFUSED (DO NOT READ)
* More from Edgar’s speech…
You win elections so you have power, so you can get things done, you can solve problems, you can help people.
Now, nobody was more partisan in an election up to election day than Steve. But the day after the election, he’d put the partisanship aside and was willing to reach out and was willing to work with the other side to find solutions to the problems.
You know, people today forget that state government used to work in Illinois. Back in the 1990s it worked pretty well. It wasn’t perfect, we had our partisan battles, we didn’t get everything right. But at the end of the day, we came together in a bipartisan manner, in a timely manner and solved the problems and the state moved on.
And a major reason for that was Steve. […]
Our unemployment rate in the last half of the 90s was below the national average. That’s something that has never happened before in Illinois history and it hasn’t happened since. […]
We left a billion and a half dollar surplus when we left in ‘99. As budget director, Steve had a lot to do with that.
…(I)n the early years we had to lay off thousands of people because the state was basically bankrupt. Steve had to administer that through CMS. But the whole time, through all those difficult situations, we had a very civil relationship with the state employees’ union. Again, I give Steve a lot of credit for that.
* And this is how he ended his speech…
Success will only occur when hundreds of people, both elected and appointed, both Republicans and Democrats, both executive branch and legislative branch do their job - working together, setting aside personal agendas and solving problems.
Nobody in Illinois state government, nobody did his job better than my friend Steve Schnorf.