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Reaching Across Party Lines

AmosDoyle/Wikimedia Commons
Commentator Bill Jacobs said politicians at the Illinois Capitol need to learn how to get along.

The members of the McDonough County Interagency Council, which is a networking group of social service agency providers, annually schedule a meeting with our Illinois State Senator and Representative.

Senator John Sullivan (D-Rushville) and Representative Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) have been very gracious to honor this annual request, and together, to find the time to squeeze it into their busy schedules at this time of the year.

The purpose of the meeting is to hear comments and opinions from our elected officials about the events unfolding in Springfield, and to provide a forum for Council members to address concerns with their representatives, which inevitably involve budgetary matters.

This meeting with the Council was held last week in Macomb. We heard from both of our elected officials about the $1.5 billion budget deficit that had to be addressed for the current fiscal year and then about the $3 to $4.2 billion dollar deficit still to be addressed for the next fiscal year scheduled to begin on July First.

Credit Rich Egger
Bill Jacobs

The deficit for the new fiscal year increased with the expiration of the temporary State income tax in January. This discussion resurrected memories of the quote attributed to former Illinois U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen, “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

We also heard that currently there is an impasse in the negotiations between two of the three principals in the budget negotiations, the Governor and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. This is coming at a time when there is less than two weeks left to hammer out a budget. Instead of opening their doors, these two leaders appear to be digging in for a battle which will inevitably be fought in the news media and through social media.

These leaders need to hear a message from the citizenry of the State of Illinois. We are tired of the seemingly endless war of words, which address problems and not solutions. We must communicate with our leaders and demand that they work together with a spirit of compromise to address the pressing problems confronting our State.

We are fortunate in west-central Illinois in having two representatives, who, although they are from different political parties, have consistently worked together to do their best to address our concerns in Springfield. The working relationship that they have developed has occurred within the only district in the State that has representation from the two parties. In other words, every other district in the State is represented by individuals from the same party.

Our two elected officials can serve as role models for how our State government must address our financial woes. Senator Sullivan and Representative Hammond know and understand the meaning and value of COMPROMISE in the political process.

You can hear and see it in their demeanor when they are together on the same platform. They discuss shared concerns and approaches to addressing problems, while avoiding mentioning any differences of opinion between themselves. This is not some rehearsed stage play, but rather a sincere demonstration of how people from the two political parties can work together on behalf of the voters who put them in office.

Senator Sullivan and Representative Hammond desire to be a part of the solution. Consider contacting them with an offer of support for their efforts to seek cooperation and compromise in order to resolve this budgetary impasse.

I will close with another quote attributable to Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen, “I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.”

Bill Jacobs is Executive Director of the McDonough County Housing Authority, which he said receives no funding from the state.

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University.  Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.