With the state budget stalemate nearing the one-year mark, former Illinois Republican Gov. Jim Edgar made a plea Tuesday for “civility,” “compromise” and “compassion” in Springfield.
Speaking in Chicago, Edgar said the “best public policy comes out of compromise,” explaining that “you can’t get things done if you’re not willing to meet your adversaries halfway.”
“We ought to have checks and balances, but we shouldn’t have shouting matches,” he added at the “Illinois: Vision for the Future” event, hosted by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform at the Standard Club.
Edgar, who became governor in 1991 and served two terms, said Illinois is currently in the “worst shape” he seen over the 50 years he’s been around state government.
“We have so many people out there hurting because government’s not solving the problem,” he stressed.
The popular former GOP governor expressed worry that the state won’t enact a “real” budget, with cuts and revenue, until “we have even a worse mess than we have now — like schools don’t open, state workers don’t get paid and state government comes to a grinding halt.”
The 11-month budget impasse essentially boils down to a political feud between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) over the governor’s controversial pro-business, anti-union policy agenda.
Edgar, who called Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda “the biggest obstacle to deal with” in the budget stalemate, reiterated his past advice for Rauner and Madigan.
“You guys need to compromise. You need to deal with the budget,” Edgar said, adding that they “can’t keep putting this thing off.”
“The longer we go,” he said, “the greater the chances we’re gonna have a major catastrophe. We already have a catastrophe, but it can get even bigger and be that much harder to dig ourself out.”
Edgar is, however, encouraged to see that Rauner now supports the idea of a stopgap budget proposal without elements of his Turnaround Agenda.
While Edgar believes temporary budgets are not the best option for the state, because they are “kicking the can down the road and just making matters worse long-term,” he said the governor took a significant step by excluding his proposed reform items.
“The next good thing he ought to do is just set aside the Turnaround Agenda until they get a real budget,” Edgar said, adding that he hopes Democrats will also eventually meet the governor “halfway and maybe figure out some things they can give to him.”
Edgar spoke in favor of redistricting reform, saying it is “probably the only so-called reform out there, I think, that might do some good.”
“You need to take it out of the hands of the incumbents, because they will draw an incumbent map,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL,2), who spoke at the event before Edgar, also called for compromise in Springfield.
“Each day that passes without a budget further erodes the faith of the business community, the credit institutions and the citizens,” she said.
Much of Kelly’s speech was devoted to the issue of gun violence and her efforts to combat it.
“I’m so relentless on this issue,” Kelly said, before pausing as she fought to hold back tears, “… because moments of silence in Congress just aren’t gonna cut it anymore.”
Kelly said she “was so upset” last week when she learned that May marked the deadliest month in Chicago since 1995. There were 66 homicides in Chicago last month.
“I feel like we have to step up to the plate with jobs, summer jobs, training programs, sending kids to daycare, taking some kids out of their communities to overnight day camps,” she said. “I know it’s not just legislation that’s going to solve this. It’s legislation. It’s parents parenting. It’s mentoring. It’s after school programs. But I think that there has to be more programs.”