By State Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) -
The last two years have not been the State of Illinois' finest. We've been mired in a seemingly endless political battle, a rudderless ship drifting in stormy seas. While I have felt almost every emotion from frustration to despair I never felt as disappointed as I did December 1, the day we passed a bill that places the profits of one company ahead of the needs of families, taxpayers and job creators in Illinois. Driving home from Springfield that evening I literally cried for my state.
The week after Thanksgiving, legislators gathered in Springfield for a three-day session. For 72 hours, legislators and staff were consumed with SB 2814. What was this important piece of legislation that took priority over passing a responsible budget for the State of Illinois? It was a bill to "bail out" a multi-billion dollar company. Yep – the General Assembly voted to subsidize a profitable Fortune 100 company with a special deal that will make them even more profitable by raising the cost of electricity for every consumer.
I strongly opposed SB 2814. From the time I woke up until the time I went to sleep, I spent all my time reading, talking to experts, and trying to convince my colleagues to vote against this bill that benefits one company at the expense of every homeowner, renter and small business that pays for electricity. After nearly a dozen amendments were added, the bill ultimately passed. But its passage isn't what brought me to tears. It was the process and lack of priorities that did.
What about all the people whose lives are being devastated by the state not having a budget? The seniors on fixed incomes who rely on Meals on Wheels, the children and adults with disabilities, the thousands of small businesses that simply want to get paid for services provided to the state, to name just a few? They don't have the luxury of an army of lobbyists pressuring legislators on their behalf. They rely on the members of the General Assembly, regardless of political party or region, to address their needs. We failed them this, and that is what makes me so sad. It's a tragedy, and the shame of it all is, things don't have to be this way.
We passed a "stop-gap" budget in June. While it merely was a band-aid on a massive wound, it did provide some stability. Yet it expires January 1st. Since its passage we have been in session exactly five days. We are months behind in paying our bills. Some vendors haven't been paid for work done over a year ago. Some universities are hanging by a financial thread. Many social service agencies have had to close. Simply put, the collateral damage of not having a comprehensive budget can be found everywhere. Yet we have been in Springfield exactly 5 days since the end of June.
Driving home the night SB 2814 passed, I was overcome. Somewhere near Bloomington on I-55 I started to cry. Please know that I don't cry very often. But this state has so much to offer. We have resources that most states envy. We have an incredible mix of quality farmland, cities, universities, and an educated workforce. We are strategically located in the center of the country with an incredible transportation network. Yet state government is mired in dysfunction.
Simply put, the people of Illinois deserve so much better. As we race toward Illinois' fiscal cliff on January 1, I hope the same amount of effort that was given to SB 2814 can now be used to come together on passing a responsible, comprehensive state budget. Illinois families demand nothing less.
I know and have great respect for Representative Mark Batinick. There aren’t many that are finer than Mark down in Springfield. His frustration is the same frustration that will soon allow Donald Trump to occupy the White House in January. As for Illinois, our state reflects “decades” of partisan corruption (on both sides)and self-serving that has brought us to the embarrassing point in history where we now find ourselves. Chicago and it’s Democrat political machine will continue to thwart efforts to cure our state of the cancer that is to be found in our state government. Perhaps a call to Trump & Priebus for their help from our state’s Illinois GOP leadership is what is needed? I don’t know. As long as the sanctuary city of Chicago continues to serve as a beacon for those seeking government assistance and entitlements (at the expense of those in Illinois already paying burdensome taxes), Chicago’s sheer numbers will continue to dictate that Illinois state government continue on it’s errant course over the approaching cliff. An S.O.S. for help sent to Trump by Rauner may be what is needed. It is apparent that Rauner is not going to be able to solve the problem on his own.