A new $1-million web campaign aims to shame Springfield lawmakers into enacting a responsible budget.
LOLIllinois.com launched this month with a goal of motivating Illinoisans to contact their lawmakers and pressure them into passing a balanced budget. The campaign is funded by the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, a nonprofit of senior executives from large Illinois companies.
President Ty Fahner said the website is funded by members of the business community but has the individual Illinoisan in mind as well. “Jobs are leaving this state," he said. "We're 50 out of 50 when it comes to our finances. Our bond rating is at rock-bottom. We have nowhere to go but up, but we need the leadership of the people to say, 'Okay, let's set this stuff aside and start to govern.'"
Fahner's organization also ran the 2009 Illinois is Broke campaign that pressured lawmakers to reform pensions. That internet campaign ran for four years.
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Fahner said he doesn't want people to think he's advocating for a tax increase. But if that is what is needed to keep the state from going bankrupt, he said he wants to simplify the tax code to keep the system from driving jobs out of the state.
Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, have been at odds over Illinois' budget since 2015. Gov. Rauner is advocating for a number of reforms that would improve Illinois' business climate and create more jobs, thus broadening the tax base.
Madigan has resisted Gov. Rauner's reforms, saying the governor is holding the budget hostage to enact laws that would bring down middle-class wages. The state is currently running on a stopgap spending plan passed this summer and court-ordered spending at a pace that could shoot past the state’s projected income by $10 billion by next summer.
The General Assembly is next scheduled to meet in November after the election.
A Federal Reserve Bank economist said that Illinois hasn’t had a balanced budget since the late-1980s.