This editorial represents the collective opinion of editorial boards of the following papers owned by Lee Enterprises: The Pantagraph, Bloomington; Herald & Review, Decatur; The Southern Illinoisan, Carbondale; Quad-City Times; and Journal-Gazette & Times-Courier, Mattoon:
Genuine urgency: There's been a dearth of it in Springfield over the past 19 months.
A real, unmitigated shutdown is precisely what Illinois needs.
Make no mistake, the General Assembly floor has seen more than its share of grandstanding as the state's muddled along without a budget. Talk of pain among students and Illinoisans who rely on social services are cliche now. Budgetary extenders come and go. Billions in unpaid bills continue to pile up. Credit ratings are downgraded. And business is reminded why Illinois is not a state worthy of investment.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan hopes to inject some real urgency. For better or worse, her motion filed late last month in St. Clair County that would freeze the state's payroll might be the extreme measure that ends a stalemate that's lasted longer than any other in seven decades.
But this is Illinois. There's a no lack of familial political intrigue.
Madigan is daughter of Speaker Michael Madigan, Illinois' one-man wrecking crew who dominates anything that happens within the Legislature. Try as he might, state Senate President John Cullerton's would-be "grand bargain" means little without Madigan's personal approval.
Madigan and Gov. Bruce Rauner are the lead actors in this tiresome farce. The incessant game of chicken mustn't continue.
Rauner, predictably, squawked at Lisa Madigan's lawsuit. She's colluding with her father to force the governor's hand, Republicans say. She's putting her thumb on the scale in a struggle that's as much about Rauner's 2018 re-election bid than the state's financial health, they claim. Forcing Rauner into promise-breaking tax hikes is the goal here, they say.
Republicans have no reason to trust Michael Madigan. Any Rauner victory — on local property taxes, unions and reform — would run counter to the speaker's long-game. Speaker Madigan wrongly describes Rauner's much-needed reforms as "non-budgetary issues." Yet, it's Rauner who has shown a willingness to deal, particularly when it comes to income tax hikes.
Illinois' speaker is the one who is unwilling to yield.
Both Madigans rebut the conspiracy allegations. But the political intrigue is little more than inside baseball at this point.
Illinois needs a budget. And the pressure applied by thousands of Illinoisans — state employees, local officials and just plain citizens — angrily screaming on the Statehouse steps could spur action from even Speaker Madigan's already twitchy rank-and-file members.
For more than a year, court orders have forced the Illinois to lumber along in some semi-functional state. The constant instability of a quasi-shutdown has damaged Illinois' prospects for years to come. College students aren't sure if their grants will come through. Social service agencies close, reopen, close again.
Rauner is correct on at least one front: As it stands, Illinois is no place to set up shop. The freshman governor didn't make this mess. He didn't drive state pensions into a pit of no return through budgetary gambles. He didn't continually hike spending year after year, while local taxes soared. But, after two years in office, Rauner holds a leading role now, no matter how right-minded some of his reforms might be.
There's no foreseeable end to the inexcusable stalemate, so long as state employees continue to get paid and service remains somewhat viable. Only the rage of public employees — many now considering a strike — outside the Statehouse will force action. Only the real burden of lawmakers personally grappling with missed paychecks will hit home with the elected class.
Illinois hasn't been functional for years. Lisa Madigan only hopes to make it official.