No More Stopgaps

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Find below a letter to the editor I wrote along with a bipartisan group of colleagues demanding an end to stopgap budgets and political nonsense. We need to reach a sane conclusion immediately.

“Dear Editor:

As the General Assembly gathers in Springfield later this month to attempt to pass a state budget, there may be proposals to muddle through with yet another “stopgap” budget. We strongly oppose such a move.

First, a stopgap budget – which provides limited funding for a few “essential” government services – will not end our state’s financial tailspin. Despite previous stopgap measures, ratings agencies have downgraded Illinois’ financial status to near “junk-bond” levels, causing taxpayers to pay much higher interest rates for any necessary borrowing. Another stopgap bill will undoubtedly drop us into junk territory, while doing little to stop our growing budget deficit and backlog of bills from reaching record levels.

Second, a stopgap bill will fail to address the inadequate level of dependable funding that has put many of our state’s vital services at risk. It will not stop more social service agencies from closing or from curtailing their provision of state services in areas from childcare to mental health and anti-addiction programs. It will not allay growing concerns from job-creators that Illinois continues to be unstable, which negatively affects economic growth. Our state universities will continue to lay off faculty and staff while more students leave the state or for those who need assistance, will be forced to forgo a higher education. And school districts across Illinois will struggle to open their doors when the new school year starts in a few months, which is why nearly 300 district superintendents are opposed to a stopgap budget.

The only answer to this crisis is for the General Assembly to pass – and the Governor to sign – a balanced, full-year budget that fully funds our vital services, adopts important reforms, and puts state finances back on track. The Senate has passed a budget plan with spending cuts, revenues and reforms. Recently, Senate and House Republicans have put forward their own budget proposal, which also embraces spending cuts, the revenue increases included in the Senate bill and reforms.

The answer to the budget impasse is not another stopgap budget, which merely puts off the hard decisions while state finances continue to collapse. The answer is to forge a compromise that balances, reforms, and ultimately moves Illinois forward. Anything less, including yet another stopgap measure, is a recipe for continued financial chaos and the human misery that results.

Signed,

Sen. Toi Hutchinson, Sen. Andy Manar, Sen. Heather Steans, Sen. Donne Trotter, Sen. Pam Althoff, Sen. Dale Righter and Rep. Kelly Cassidy”