Finally Illinois has a budget. Two years without a budget has made Illinois look incompetent to deal with fiscal issues. Certainly, the passage of this budget is long overdue, and there is plenty of blame to go around in all political quarters of Illinois. Sadly, our State of Illinois has now one of the worst reputations in the country for paying our bills. The state owes millions to vendors who have provided valuable and important services to our fellow citizens. Finally, social service agencies that have provided critical services to venerable people who in many instances are in desperate and life threatening situations will be reimbursed. School districts throughout Illinois will have the funds to open school doors to students this fall.

Those of us who have watched these budget battles for years in Illinois remember a time when Republican governors such as Governor Jim Thompson, Governor Jim Edgar and Governor George Ryan would work in a bipartisan, collaborative way with democratic leaders to hammer out budgets year in and year out. These were difficult negotiations, but in the end the key to success was the bipartisan collaborative manner with which these negotiations were carried out. Neither side, Republican governors nor Democratic leadership in the Illinois House and Illinois Senate, was able to “ get everything they wanted” but certainly in the end the people of Illinois were well served by their negotiations and agreements.

Now that the budget has passed, more work needs to be done to accomplish pension reform, government consolidation, property tax reform and additional school funding reform. Let’s hope these reforms can be accomplished with bipartisan resolutions.

Raising the personal income tax to 4.95 percent and the corporate tax to 7 percent will continue to motivate individuals and businesses to flee Illinois to neighboring states. Certainly businesses will be looking at neighboring states with friendlier business tax climates.

Many of the readers of this paper remember a time when Illinois was considered one of the great states in our country to live and work. Illinois was one of the preeminent industrial states with a vibrant business climate and a wonderful place to live and raise a family.

The people of Illinois and in particular our friends and neighbors in Central Illinois need to get involved in the political, social and cultural activities of our community. We need leaders who demonstrate the ability to lead our state in a direction of renewal and revival so we become a state that welcomes new businesses and jobs and welcomes individuals who are proud to call Illinois home.

Now that we have a budget for Illinois, let’s continue to persuade our leaders and fellow citizens to make further progress so Illinois will be a great state again.

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