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Cut a deal for Illinois in the no-blame zone

Chicago Sun Times

Friday, June 16, 2017  |  Editorial  |  Editorial Board

Budget--State (8)

Let’s declare this a no-blame zone, if only for the space of this editorial.

 

And let’s go one better: Let’s declare Springfield a no-blame zone, if only for the next two weeks.

 

We don’t care, while in the zone, who’s responsible for the inability of our elected state leaders to pass a budget for the last two years, though their failure to do so is driving our state into the ground with unpaid bills, soaring debt and a junk-level credit rating.

 

Nobody in Springfield should care, either. Get over it.

 

We should all care about only this:

 

Gov. Bruce Rauner went on Facebook on Thursday to call a special session of the Legislature. Terrific. It’s set to begin Wednesday and run 10 days.

 

So get a budget deal done.

 

The governor’s leadership skills now are on the line. If he rides out of Springfield on his motorcycle on the last day of the session — his session — without brokering a deal, he will have failed miserably. If the Legislature skips town without a budget, they will have failed, too.

 

The no-blame zone will vanish in an instant, and the finger-pointing will explode. All the money and duct tape campaign ads in the world won’t convince the voters that Bruce

Rauner has been anything but a disaster as governor, undeserving of a second term. All the talk from House Speaker Mike Madigan about how he’s just sticking up for the regular guy and those noble unions won’t get him a free apple for lunch.

 

And get ready, then, for the sorriest elections in Illinois history, with two sets of losers pitted against the other.

 

At this stage, agreeing to terms on a budget shouldn’t be that hard. House Republicans on Wednesday proposed a “compromise” budget plan, for the fiscal year that begins July 1, that looks awfully close to a plan approved in the spring by Senate Democrats. It’s like the clouds are clearing and you can see Indiana from the top of the Hancock.

 

The GOP plan calls for a four-year property tax freeze, while the Democratic plan calls for a two-year freeze. Split the difference and make it three.

 

The GOP plan also accepts an income tax proposed by the Democrats, to 4.95 percent from 3.75 percent, but for only four years instead of permanently, and beginning July 1 instead of being made retroactive to Jan. 1.

 

In a normal state, would such differences be insurmountable?

 

What we really don’t know is whether this special session is for real or for show. Is it an honest effort to pass a budget or a way to look heroic in failure?

 

Let the circus begin.