Letter: Speak Up

To the editor,

It’s time for citizens to speak up!  I know you’re busy and speaking with elected officials is not something most people like to do.  However, the Legislature and Governor are at logger heads and you are the only force that can break the impasse.  They aren’t negotiating a budget or needed reforms to grow our economy.  As a result our state is sinking deeper in debt, the cost of programs keeps rising and some local providers are being forced to close their doors—perhaps forever.

You probably haven’t felt the fiscal crisis that has been brewing in our state since July.  Illinois is in the third month without a state budget but almost 90 percent of the usual annual expenditures are being paid through consent decrees, agreements, and court orders at rates we cannot afford.  As a result, the Comptroller’s office estimates that the state is on track to overspend anticipated revenue by $8 billion this fiscal year. 

Meanwhile funding for some 10 percent of the programs has been stopped.  There’s no funding for program recipients who don’t have loud voices or court orders such as senior citizens trying to live less expensively in their homes rather than at a full-service care facility.  Or low-income families who need assistance paying for child care so they can work or get training for a better job.  

Also not being paid are the public colleges and universities who are trying to prepare the workforce that will add billions of dollars to the economy and attract companies and jobs to Illinois.  Students who rely on financial aid to attend college will likely have to drop out of school in the spring semester without funding for the Monetary Assistance Program. 

My fellow legislators and I have gone down to Springfield week after week ready and willing to tackle reforms and the budget, but have been blocked by legislative leaders.  Further complicating the issue is our Governor who, perhaps wisely, wants reform legislation before talking about the budget.   

To get conversations started among the leaders and legislators, citizens need to share their voices and get involved.  Write Letters to the Editor in major city newspapers; post comments on social media; or call the offices of the legislative leaders and the Governor.  Get together with your church groups, service clubs, and even book clubs to talk about the issue and ways to put pressure on Springfield.  Without pressure from constituents, we aren’t likely to see either side budge. 

We’re at a crossroads in this state. Our state leaders are used to doing things one way, but its time to adjust course, come together through compromise and reform.  The longer this goes on, the more difficult the recovery will be.  It shouldn’t be about what side is going to win this battle, but instead about making sure that Illinois doesn’t lose.

Bob Pritchard

State Representative 70th District