There are always two audiences for formal gubernatorial addresses: legislators who actually attend, and everyone outside the Statehouse who watch it or read about it later.
Governor Bruce Rauner’s budget address last week seemed far more designed for people outside the building, most of whom don’t really care about the intricacies of government finance. Most do, however, want to see everyone finally get along and end this eight-month governmental impasse, despite what you may read in online comment sections.
That’s probably why Rauner barely even talked about the budget. It’s no surprise why. For the first time since Illinois became a state in 1818, a governor has submitted a budget for the next fiscal year without having passed a budget for the current fiscal year.
The failure is not just an embarrassment. Tens of thousands of the most vulnerable Illinoisans are paying dearly. No budget means the state can’t help homeless teens, assist women with the trauma of a brutal rape, or help addicts kick heroin.
Tens of thousands more may have to drop out of college because state universities and a special scholarship program aren’t being funded. The majority African-American Chicago State University is perilously close to shutting down, as are Western Illinois University and Eastern Illinois University.
Even Rauner’s lines that some described as an “olive branch” to the Democratic legislative majority seemed aimed more at the folks back home.
Why? Well, words, even very kind words, are not going to be enough to get this done. The sides are simply too far apart, and now that election season has cranked up again, I’m not sure how this thing is going to be resolved.