By Ellen Alberding, David Hiller, Terry Mazany and Julia Stasch
As the budget season grinds on in Springfield, every Illinois citizen now sees up close
the ugly reality: Our state government is in a financial crisis, and our elected leaders
have so far responded with paralysis.
Countless words have been written about the problem: years of spending money we
did not have, promises of future benefits we could not afford and, with a few notable
exceptions, an active refusal on the part of those in power, Democrat or Republican,
to do anything about it.
As leaders of Illinois’ largest philanthropies, we are not writing to play the blame game
about how we got here. There has been enough of that. But we are writing to put this
mess in its starkest terms: The stakes are high, the problems are big and the choices
are tough — but failure to act will be catastrophic to our state.
What gives us standing to make this case? We do not claim any special wisdom here,
just a point of view informed by our support of education, job training, human services,
public safety and other vital needs throughout Illinois. Our foundations often work in
partnership with government to find solutions to some of the most vexing policy issues
facing our state and nation.
We are deeply familiar with the pain and hardship that will be inflicted on many more
Illinoisans when the reality of inaction in Springfield comes home to roost — if that is,
in fact, the dismal outcome of the current legislative session.
You might think our elected officials are stumped by some kind of strange, intractable
problem, one that defies solution. But in fact, solutions exist. They are broadly known
and widely circulated. Some involve making budget cuts, some involve raising taxes
and all are unpopular with one group or another. But this is not a time to play partisan
politics or think only of protecting parochial interests, trying to preserve a status quo
that is not sustainable.
Instead, it is a time when all of us must accept the reality that shared sacrifices are
necessary to ensure the future of our great state and city. Indeed, our foundations have
very different priorities and interests. We do not agree on every issue. But we do agree
on this: If a dramatic, long-term solution is not found in this budget season, the state
will be on a steep path to decline.
We call upon Gov. Bruce Rauner, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate
President John Cullerton to put aside political gamesmanship and choose among the
various possible remedies that have been offered up. As unpleasant as the task may
be, it is what they were elected to do.
Time is running out. Will your legacy be a failure of leadership? The residents of
Illinois deserve better.
Alberding is president of the Joyce Foundation. Hiller is president of the Robert R.
Mc-Cormick Foundation. Mazany is president of the Chicago Community Trust.
Stasch is president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Tony Paulauski Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423