While four Illinois legislators gave their views on the state’s first budget in two years, and took mild jabs at each other, Will County officials told them they are tired of rhetoric in Springfield and urged the lawmakers to work together.
“People are tired of hearing your rhetoric over and over. Just negotiate, get it done, and work together, instead of stigmatizing the other side as the bad guy,” said County Board member Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen.
“I would like to hear mature conversation for once out of Springfield, where we are not sitting on separate sides but actually communicating with each other,” said Board member Ray Tuminello, R-New Lenox.
Local state leaders were invited to the board’s Legislative and Policy Committee meeting Tuesday to provide a recap of what is going on in Springfield and to hear how the state’s budget has impacted the county.
The 90-minute session was attended by state Senators Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, Sue Rezin, R-Morris, and state Reps. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, and John Connor, D-Lockport.
McDermed claimed that as a member of the minority party, she “had nothing to do with the budget.”
“How it was put together? I have no fricking clue,” she said. “What are the details? Who the hell knows.”
“There is nothing about the budget that I think is correct for our future. It doesn’t deal with what we should have dealt with — any of the issues that will change our trajectory,” she said, explaining why she voted against it.
McGuire defended the budget and income tax increase as necessary to provide funding for education and human services. There were $3 billion in cuts; every agency took a 5 percent cut, and higher education was cut 10 percent, he said.
“With its warts and all,” it is the bipartisan budget that was put together by Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and former Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, McGuire said.
The income tax increase was not enough, but only takes money from middle classes and uses it to expand government, Rezin said, adding that the budget is still $1.3 billion out of balance.
She opposes a progressive tax hike because “that’s like giving a blank check to a state that cannot control its spending,” she said.
The state has to increase jobs and enact reforms that reduce the costs of doing business and living in the state, Rezin said.
“This was, by far, the most difficult year we’ve had,” the seven-year legislator said.
Connor, D-Lockport, who was appointed to the legislature in late June, when Rep. Emily McAsey resigned, said not having a budget was “absolutely no good for the people of Illinois.”
He said he supported the budget because without it, the state was paying $800 million in debt service.
“Instead of talking politics,” Illinois leaders need to look at what has worked for other states that dug themselves out of a hole, he said.
In his first three months in office, only one Republican reached out to him, he said, and there has not been a lot of functions where people can talk in a relaxed setting.
Reaching across the aisle “needs to happen,” Connor said.
County board members did not mince words as they let their legislators know that they were tired of politics as usual.
Fricilone said the state’s budget results in a loss of at least $2.4 million to Will County.
“That’s not politics, just facts,” he said, adding that every municipality, township and county will lose money.
“You can’t hide behind budget that takes money away from us and say you are balancing your budget. Why don’t you take the brunt of it? Make it transparent to us and to the public. By reducing our revenue, you are defunding our programs,” Fricilone said.
The 32 percent income tax increase, will be “much higher” when all these losses come to fruition, he said.
Tuminello said that despite the fact that Illinois has the largest inland port, access to a network of highways, fresh water, utilities and a workforce, there is a “negative migration” in the state.
“This is simply due to one thing — politics under the dome in Springfield,” he said. “You continue to subsidize the sins of the past on the backs of local government. We all have the same customers.”
“Individuals in Illinois are tired of waking up to another bill and less on their paychecks. People would love to see you not worrying about next election, but worrying about the people in your district,” Tuminello said.
Board member Tim Kraulidis, R- Joliet, asked, “Are you not getting across the aisle because of leadership? If so, what are you doing to solve it? Where is your backbone?”