Editor's Notebook: Budget talk with state Sen. McConnaughay

By KATHY BALCAZAR - editorial@kcchronicle.com Published: Saturday, June 17, 2017 10:35 a.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, June 18, 2017 11:02 a.m. CDT

State Sen. Karen McConnaughay, a Republican, visited the newsroom June 6 to provide an update on the spring session in Springfield.

The question on the minds of many state residents asks when the Legislature will finally pass a full-year budget. The state has gone without an annual budget since July 1, 2015.

I sat down with the senator to get the latest. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Kathy Balcazar: What do you have to say to Illinois taxpayers and organizations who were hopeful we’d have a budget by now?

Karen McConnaughay: The first thing I would say is I’m sorry. I’m sorry that two sides with very strong philosophical differences couldn’t come together and get Illinois back on track. The fact that that still eludes us makes me very sad.

Balcazar: Are we going to go four years without a budget? What else can be done?

McConnaughay: Never give up hope. I believe that there’s still an opportunity because we, at one point, were very close. And there are issues where there’s consensus – or close to consensus – that I think a little more conversation would get us to where we need to be. And there are other things that are a little more challenging. But I, being the eternal optimist, I believe the day we stop believing that there’s an opportunity for success is really kind of the end.

Balcazar: How much – if at all – do you think the next election for governor is playing into the Legislature’s inability to pass a budget?

McConnaughay: Sadly, probably way more than it should. I believe, on the other side of the aisle, there is a belief that there’s no need to compromise on things they feel strongly about. They’ll take care of it in the ’18 election. I think that’s clearly where Speaker [Michael] Madigan is coming from. And under his leadership, I think rank and file really doesn’t want to have to do difficult things. And with the ’18 election looming ahead, unfortunately, I think more of them than not are OK with waiting until ’18.

Balcazar: How would you describe the budget impasse in one word?

McConnaughay: Devastating.

Balcazar: What has the Legislature accomplished over the last few months?

McConnaughay: Well, nothing is for sure for what we’ve accomplished yet because bills have just been passed, and the governor hasn’t signed anything yet. So until we complete that process of a governor’s signature, it’s hard to say that we’ve accomplished anything. And when you haven’t accomplished a balanced budget and you fail to support the primary functions of state government, nothing else really matters, does it?

Kathy Balcazar is weekly group editor for the Kane County Chronicle, Elburn Herald, Sugar Grove Herald and Suburban Life Media, and is a member of the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association Board. Contact her at kbalcazar@shawmedia.com or 630-845-5368. Learn more about NINA at ninaonline.org.