In just a few weeks, the State of Illinois will begin its new fiscal year, and by all lights it will again be a year without a budget. This will be Year 3.
The fault lies as before with the so-called leaders in Springfield, who say they represent our interests. How many of them have looked to see the damage they have inflicted on the residents of Illinois, the residents of Cook County, the residents of Evanston, the children, the vulnerable, the less seen and seldom heard?
The State, typically a few months behind in payments to schools and social service organizations, is now unconscionably delinquent – or maybe just another deadbeat. People are hurting. Organizations that have lost funding – or had it painfully reduced – once had to do more with less. Now many of them do less with less.
State Senator Daniel Biss said, “Every day we go without a budget carries a real human cost – students who can’t go to college because their scholarships didn’t come through; victims of domestic violence who can’t get the help they need because programs are closing; seniors unable to get needed care because of cuts to vital services.”
An Evanston example is the YWCA Evanston/North Shore’s letter found on page 7 of this paper. That letter is a courageous statement of what many social service organizations may be reluctant to admit: Precariously reduced funding diminishes jobs and services.
At the May 15 City Council meeting, City staff presented in public a brief overview of the status of the City’s collective bargaining efforts with two police and one firefighter union. While more detailed information was presented in executive session, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz was not shy about saying that the inaction in Springfield harms the City’s negotiations. He told the City Council, “The State of Illinois does not have a budget – not last year and is on its way not to have a budget next year. The peril we face in contract negotiations is jeopardized by what the State may or may not do.”
What’s at stake here, besides the egos of two pitifully powerful men? Unions, social services, jobs, the well-being of Illinois residents, a chance for the State to get up and get moving.
Hey, you all down in Springfield, wake up. To paraphrase an old Illinois tourism phase: Just outside of the State House, there’s a place called Illinois.