McCombie urges Illinois legislators to pass long-term, balanced state budget
Voters are worried about their future in Illinois, according to Savanna Mayor Tony McCombie, who is campaigning for state representative in District 71.
“While out walking door to door, the biggest concern I’ve heard from voters revolves around the lack of a budget,” McCombie recently told Rock Island Today. “Following as close second is high property taxes and lack of education funding. The voters I have talked to are worried about the future of this state and want change.”
Change seems like an apparition, as Springfield is potentially facing another year without a long-term budget in place.
McCombie describes the situation and the General Assembly as a failure.
“(House Speaker Mike) Madigan and his allies have not been open to reforms that could create jobs, fully fund our schools, safely operate our prisons, provide social services and other reliant state services,” she said in a press release.
McCombie also targets the incumbent in her district, Democrat Mike Smiddy, for standing with Madigan on the budget.
“It is disappointing our representative, Mike Smiddy, would leave Springfield without passing a balanced budget or even voting on Madigan’s dishonorable budget - again failing and putting our schools and communities at risk,” McCombie said in the press release. “We have serious problems, and we need people representing us that are willing and want to protect and keep people in Illinois.”
Keeping people in Illinois has been a challenge as unemployment rose in every county in Illinois for the first time in six years in April. The state also saw its third straight rise in the jobless rate.
McCombie said that this is just an indicator of how unfriendly Illinois is to businesses.
“Rising unemployment numbers are another indicator of how unfriendly the state of Illinois is at doing business,” she said. “We continue to chase people from the state with a lack of common-sense legislation, such as the edge tax credit, high property taxes and high worker’s compensation costs.”
McCombie pointed out that, while important companies have yet to move elsewhere, they are not willing to invest or expand in the state due to the alleged unfriendliness.
“Large companies like Caterpillar and John Deere have not left our state, but they are certainly not willing to grow in this unstable climate,” she said. “The lack of compromise in Springfield will continue to increase unemployment. I have seen this negative impact within my own district with the closing of the Exelon plant in Cordova.”
Exelon, the parent of Chicago-area utilities provider ComEd, announced that it is closing the Clinton Power Station on June 1, 2017, and closing the Quad Cities Generating Station in Cordova on June 1, 2018. The company stated that the two plants have lost a combined $800 million in the past seven years, despite being two of the best-performing plants. The move comes after the Illinois legislature failed to pass the Next Generation Energy Plan, which Exelon said would help save the nuclear plants.
McCombie, in another press release, blasted Springfield politicians for refusing to work together and compromise on passing legislation to save the plants. She believes the closure will cost 800 jobs and devastate the region.
Jobs are not the only area among the lost. Vital programs and services, many of which depend on government funding, are cutting hours, laying off workers and reducing their services. These programs, such as rape crisis centers, are as uncertain of their future as the voters of Illinois.
McCombie calls it a sobering realization. Each program, she said, plays a vital role in helping people; and it will be those people who will face the consequences.
“Everyone in that state of Illinois is being affected by the budget impasse,” she said. “To me, there is no program more important than the other. Each program has merit, and without a balanced budget with reforms, the programs for our most vulnerable will only continue to deteriorate, and the recipients will suffer.”
Among the most vulnerable of the victims are children, as the budget impasse affects them as well. Programs that have helped at-risk youth have had to shut down, and now many of the youth enrolled in programs such as Redeploy Illinois have nowhere to go for support. Several of them have regressed back to crime.
“The battle of wills between parties is destroying our state,” McCombie said. “The youth of Illinois are the future … and should be treated as such. Unfortunately, the state’s inability to pass a balanced budget year after year has resulted in a financial climate where even programs with clear results are being cut because we can no longer afford them.”
Moreover, she noted that counties in her district were eligible for such services.
"Both Whiteside and Rock Island County were eligible to receive assistance for at-risk youth via Redeploy,” McCombie said. “It’s hard for me to see these counties within my district lose another opportunity to better themselves and their citizens because of the financial irresponsibility and lack of common sense in Springfield. We should not give up hope on at-risk youth, and we must push our legislator in the direction of compromise.”
As programs like Redeploy struggle to get funding, they find they are not alone as schools are questioning whether they will open in the fall due to the lack of a proper funding formula. Many superintendents are directing their ire toward Gov. Bruce Rauner, accusing him of playing games with education.
McCombie does not think it is fair to scrutinize the governor, however, because the funding formula was flawed from the beginning. She insists that he is trying his best.
“I do not believe Gov. Rauner is responsible for the school funding situation because the school funding formula was established well over a decade ago,” she said. “The governor realizes that our state is in crippling debt and things cannot continue as the always have. I believe the governor, as well as most of the state legislators, truly care about our children and believe that education funding needs reform.”
McCombie concluded by encouraging cooperation and understanding in the capital. She ended with a suggestion on where to start.
“Those is office need to listen and work with our educators and determine a better formula to properly fund education,” she said. “Balancing the budget would be a great place to start.”
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Rock Island, IL