As Illinois’ newest state senator, I took on this challenge because of the horrible condition of our state government. I continue to be saddened by the suffering of millions of Illinoisans. Countless opportunities for achievement have also been lost due to poor management for the past two decades.

We have to act now.

Illinois will never have enough revenue to sustain adequate funding of essential social services if our lawmakers don’t implement reform. We must grow jobs and the size of our economy.

Gov. Rauner did not cause the epic problems of Illinois. When he got to Springfield, our state was ranked in the bottom three in almost every category. He offered his candidacy to “shake up Springfield.” He has proposed a host of reforms strongly supported by the public, such as term limits, redistricting reform, and measures to jump-start job creation.

Expecting Gov. Rauner to capitulate by increasing taxes and overspending, while enacting no reforms, is akin to asking him to pour kerosene on a burning building. If legislators have true long-term compassion for those most in need of state services, they must compromise with the governor.

The path to recovery starts with addressing the problems and implementing solutions.

Our legendary House speaker, Michael Madigan, has ruled with an iron fist for most of the past 30 years. Voters mandated a change in the election of 2014. If Speaker Madigan’s political obstinacy is allowed to override that mandate, our most needy citizens will suffer for decades to come.

Shortly after my swearing-in, I was astonished that Speaker Madigan refused to meet with the governor and the other leaders. He has offered no movement to inch toward a compromise with stalemate as a result.

This week the governor presented in his State of the State address examples of his bipartisan efforts with Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat from Chicago. President Cullerton has stepped up to work with the governor on education funding and pension issues. This can be the beginning of much-needed compromise.

The governor will be giving his budget address in three weeks. This week, Gov. Rauner unveiled new proposals moving the state away from 1980s technology and adding business-like government procurement procedures which have already generated widespread support.

Also, the governor’s proposals on criminal justice reform and “decarceration” are thoroughly bipartisan. Implementation can save our taxpayers millions of dollars while allowing thousands of nonviolent offenders a second chance to lead a productive life. As long as public safety remains the primary concern, this initiative will find support on both sides of the aisle.

It is easy to see that entrenched special interests have controlled our state government for decades and have ruined the state’s finances, economic competitiveness, and education funding. Those forces have fought tooth and nail to preserve the destructive status quo, and they must be stopped.

Moving forward, our complete focus needs to be on economic growth rather than preserving the political power of those who got us in this mess. We need citizen pressure placed on Democrats and Republicans to resolve this impasse. That pressure needs to come with the wisdom that continuing business as usual is not the answer.

Citizen activism is essential as we see the governor and Senate president finding common ground and a willingness to compromise.

The time is now to meet the needs of our state and move Illinois forward in a sound and sustained manner.

Chuck Weaver is a member of the Illinois State Senate, representing the 37th Senate District.

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Sue Pratt

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