Former state senator offers thoughts on budget crisis

Former state senator offers thoughts on budget crisis

Former state senator RICK WINKEL, Monday's luncheon guest of the Champaign Rotary Club, offered thoughts on Madigan vs. Rauner and an action plan assembled by his colleagues at the UI's Institute of Government & Public Affairs. Highlights of his talk, which staff writer Ben Zigterman listened in on:

1. The battle between House Speaker Michael Madigan and Gov. Bruce Rauner is about 'the balance of power.'

"They've been fighting that war now for 593 days, and the crazy part all along is that both sides are convinced that they're both winning and there's no need to compromise. We've got two very determined, very smart, very disciplined people that are in a standoff that is having a very deep, long-lasting impact on the state."

2. State legislators past and present — himself included — deserve some of the blame for not coming to grips earlier with the enormity of Illinois' budget woes.

"I'm surprised that audiences didn't quite know how bad it was and what steps may need to be taken. I think likewise, it's sad but true, the legislators have been a little slow on the uptake. As a body, we've been slow to embrace this, whether Republican or Democrat. Look, they know they have to raise taxes, and I know that rankles everybody here, or most people here, but they also know they have to cut, and that rankles other people, and there's the debate."

3. He remains cautiously optimistic about the 'grand bargain' being worked out in the Illinois Senate. He also believes Attorney General Lisa Madigan's move to stop paying state employees if there's not a budget by Feb. 28 will force a resolution.

"I'd say within the next few weeks, but I've got to tell you: I've been wrong in every prediction, so take it with a grain of salt."

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