With everything going on in Springfield, a lot of folks ask me, "what's going to happen?" They’re worried about the budget crisis, the pension crisis, or one of any number of crises in Illinois state government. While I wish it were otherwise, my typical answer is, "I don't know what will happen, but I sure know what should happen!”
We should promote real job growth, stop spending more than we take in, and reform Illinois government. There are plenty of policy proposals out there to do this. Some proposals are more complex than others, but none of them require a rocket scientist to execute.
Here’s the problem: the debate in Springfield isn’t about which of the available policy changes we should pursue, but whether we should bother with any significant policy changes at all.
You wouldn’t realize that, listening to all the talk from members of the General Assembly. They make it sound like they’re on top of things. The problem isn’t in what you’re hearing, but in what they’re saying. You see, words mean different things in the State Capitol than they do in the rest of the state.
For instance, when you hear politicians advocate for a “balanced approach,” that means they support tax increases. When they say that a spending reduction is “massive,” that means a cut of more than about 5% or so. When they talk about “protecting the middle class,” that means they support new government programs or substantial increases in existing programs, usually without any way to pay for them.
The best way I know to “protect the middle class” is to increase the number of good-paying jobs. Middle class folks in Illinois don’t need more programs—they need more opportunities to work. And they deserve a government that won’t then bleed them dry through corruption, overspending, and excessive taxation.
In the coming weeks and months, ignore the talk and watch what the General Assembly actually does. So far, Speaker Mike Madigan has scheduled week after week of sham votes, on bills that were never meant to become law. That has led to lots of shouting but very little honest debate.
You’ll know we’re making progress if you see debate on real proposals to achieve job growth, balance the budget, and reform government. There are many entrenched special interests in the way, but if we can clear a path for proposals like these, we can achieve the recovery our state desperately needs and wants.