Sheet of US one hundred dollar bills, elevated view


By Bob Balgemann


STATELINE – In the view of state Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Sycamore, Memorial Day weekend couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Legislators needed to get out of Springfield, go back to the people they represent and remember that the freedoms we enjoy aren’t free,” Rep. Pritchard said. “Thousands of men and women have given their lives to buy and preserve our democracy.”

In Springfield, he said an air of optimism that a balanced budget might be possible before the spring sessions ends has gone sour.

Groups of rank and file legislators, he said, have made progress on reforms to help our state grow, identify areas to trim in the budget, and look for additional revenue for unpaid bills. Rather than find a solution now, he said Democratic leaders appear more focused on a tug-of-war to win votes in the Nov. 8 general election.

Somewhere along the way, he said “real compromise” has become an unwelcome word in Springfield.

Compromise does not mean excluding the minority party from helping shape policies. Instead, it is looking for the best solutions, he said.

“It has become easier to blame the governor (Republican Bruce Rauner) than work with him; easier to avoid hard decisions and just point fingers,” Pritchard, a Boone County representative, said.

Part of the answer is for residents to keep up the pressure on Springfield to pass a balanced budget, he stressed.

“We can’t wait until November to take action to trim spending and enhance revenue.”

He encouraged residents to contact their legislators now and demand that they not abandon their responsibilities or shirk making the hard decisions.

Pritchard credited President Abraham Lincoln with offering some sage advice – for his generation and for use today – while dedicating the Gettysburg Cemetery on Nov. 19, 1863.

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here today to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced,” he said, quoting from the Gettysburg Address. “It is rather for us to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to the cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

Speaking of relationships between Republicans and Democrats in Springfield, state Rep. Joe Sownowski, R-Rockford, offered the following take on what happened a couple of days before lawmakers began the Memorial Day weekend.

On Thursday, May 26, Sosnowski said House Democrats waived several procedures and introduced their 500-page budget for 2016-17, giving Republicans an hour to read through “the monstrous appropriation.”

He said the bill “spends $40 billion this fiscal year, which makes it the largest budget in Illinois history. The state is expected to bring in $33 billion in revenue…, yet this plan spends $40 billion.”

That would leave the state with an operating deficit of $7 billion, doubling its debt to $14 billion, he pointed out.

As an aside, he said the proposal sends an additional $400 million to Chicago Public Schools, including $100 million for a bailout of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.

“Experts predict that to fund this budget without structural reforms would require a five percent state income tax increase on Illinois residents.”

The following morning, he said he and his Republican colleagues stood together on the House floor and asked members of the majority party “to stay in session and work in a bipartisan manner to pass a balanced budget. Only four members of the majority party stood up.”

In summation, the Boone County representative said, “Illinois cannot continue with phony budgeting gimmicks and phony promises; and we certainly can’t pay our bills with phony money.”

The state’s new fiscal year will begin July 1.


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