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Who would want to move into this mess?

Crain's Chicago Business

Saturday, June 17, 2017  |  Editorial  |  Editorial Board

Budget--State (8)

A major Chicago company, we hear, is having a harder time persuading recruits to move here. Full employment, especially among the well-compensated professionals it's hiring, might seem to blame. But the company isn't struggling to attract talent in markets where jobless rates are even lower than metro Chicago's most recent rate of 4.3 percent. What's the problem then? It's the candidates' fear that Chicago and Illinois generally have become risky places in which to buy a home and raise a family.

When the General Assembly reconvenes June 21, it could put some of those worries to rest and pass an actual state budget for the first time in two years. That would require compromise from Gov. Bruce Rauner as well as his Democratic adversaries, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton. For far too long, they've put their own re-elections ahead of the commonweal. Meanwhile, the state stumbles along, spending far more than it's taking in. Meanwhile, too, the unthinkable becomes less improbable: Without state support, junk-rated governments in Illinois, including the city of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools and a half-dozen state universities, could essentially go under.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel will have none of it, but to a growing number of job-seekers, Chicago looks more and more like Detroit of 2013.

Rauner is right to insist that lawmakers convene every day through the end of the fiscal year, June 30, to enact a budget. It'd be nothing but political posturing, however, if the governor doesn't give up on his ransom demands and provide Republican votes for a plan that would raise taxes—yes, higher taxes are necessary, as Rauner himself has acknowledged—and reduce spending enough to balance out. Certainty is what is needed most.

Though not immediately, a state budget would help Chicago in other ways. The city has become synonymous with gun violence. Through June 15, 289 people have been killed—almost two a day—and an additional 1,267 have been shot and wounded. Even the city's beaches are no longer free of gunfire. Imagine if, instead of laying off staff because the state no longer is paying them, social services agencies and nonprofits were working with teens and young adults to give them an alternative to gangs and guns. Imagine if, instead of putting hiring on hold until they know our governments are stable, employers were expanding. Imagine if, instead of being fearful of Chicago, talented people from across the nation and around the world were flocking to the city. Imagine if, instead of piling up more debt on future generations, elected officials finally did the right thing and gave their constituents a balanced budget.

Imagine.