Here’s how the new budget fails Illinois

More than two years have passed since the citizens of Illinois sent me to Springfield to challenge the old way of doing business. We knew then that the state was irresponsibly shortchanging our children’s future by our political leaders’ unwillingness to live within our means. It was time to hold elected officials of both parties accountable for the culture of corruption and cronyism that has created economic stagnation and a fiscal crisis. It was time to enact reforms that can unleash the potential of our economy and ensure that Illinois is a state where our children and grandchildren can thrive.

Over the past two years, we’ve worked on a bipartisan basis to fix Illinois. We’ve increased education funding by more than $700 million. Our education funding commission — composed of Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate — crafted a framework to put an end to our state’s broken school funding formula. A bipartisan Criminal Justice Commission has led to reforms and legislation that already have reduced our prison population by 10 percent. We formed the Illinois Competitiveness Council to streamline state policies and cut red tape. We’ve strengthened ethics requirements on all executive branch employees to ensure that government works for you, not the political insiders.

Over the past two years we’ve also been seeking common ground on the fiscal and structural changes necessary to restore our state’s fiscal health. This challenge is not just about one year’s budget; it is about reforming our state so that our economy grows faster than our government spending. Structural reforms that encourage job growth, provide property tax relief and make government more efficient are essential to our long-term fiscal health.

Yet instead of passing a budget with reforms that would move Illinois forward, the legislature collapsed under the pressure of entrenched interests and passed a 32 percent income tax hike.

Even with permanently higher taxes, the legislation does not balance our current budget and does very little to pay down the billions of dollars in debt we have accumulated over decades. The budget package ignored everything we need and want: property tax relief for families and businesses, regulatory relief to grow our economy and term limits on politicians to restore confidence in our political system. This budget ultimately will require even more tax increases to balance future budgets and pay down our debt. Illinois is on track to become the highest taxed state in the nation.

This is not the future that we imagined for Illinois. This is not who we are. We are not people who see problems and do nothing. We are not people who turn away from each other.

We cannot give up on an Illinois where all children receive an excellent education regardless of their ZIP code; an Illinois that cares for those in need; an Illinois that promotes an open economy where immigrants and entrepreneurs can realize their dreams; an Illinois where anyone who works hard can find rising wages and expanding opportunities; an Illinois where people want to lay down roots and raise families.

Illinois is blessed with every natural resource — except good government. Once we begin to reform, we can turn our Illinois around and provide the future our children deserve.