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Overdue Budget Affects People Differently, Including Lawmakers

Cass Herrington
Peoria Public Radio

Two Illinois State Senators sat side-by-side during a legislative breakfast, hosted by AARP in Peoria Wed. It was a visible and audible display of contrasts.

Democratic State Sen. David Koehler sat slumped forward, resting his head in his hand, while Republican State Sen. Chuck Weaver sat tall, with a smile. Weaver says he’s feeling optimistic.  

“My life doesn’t depend on doing this job," Weaver said. "I enjoy what I do, I get a chance to make a difference every day, but I can make decisions based on right and wrong, it’s much easier to do when you’re at this point in your life.”

The state’s days away from the end of this fiscal year. If the governor and legislature fail to agree on a budget, Illinois’ unprecedented impasse will trudge into its third consecutive year. Senator David Koehler doesn’t share Weaver’s sentiment.

“I guess there’s always two ways of looking at things. I appreciate his optimism, and I guess I’ll breathe a sigh of relief if we can actually get something done by the end of June.”

During the Q&A, they heard concerns from attendees, largely senior citizens. One person wrote in a comment that their son lost access to disability services. The comment said “I’m worried for the sake of Illinois’ neediest.”

The conversation that was tense at times, given the glaring detail that Illinois’ budget impasse is steeped in partisanship. The Republican Governor refuses to pass the Democratic-majority legislature’s budget, unless it contains his pro-business agenda.

Sen. Weaver says reforms, like reducing worker’s compensation, are necessary to make quote “the system” more efficient. For instance, he knows a business owner who pays about $30,000 for workers comp claims in Illinois, compared to $16,000 in California and $2,000 in Georgia.

“We do not to be Georgia, but we’ve got to be competitive with California. That does not mean our workers suffer, there’s just a lot of things in our system that allows for a lot of fraud in the system.”

Weaver also says he’s spoken to business owners who relocated to Indiana because of Illinois’ poor credit rating, a casualty of the state budget impasse. 

Sen. Koehler thinks Gov. Rauner could use a civics lesson. 

Democratic State Senator David Koehler says the first-term governor needs a civics lesson.

“You’ve got to understand there’s a balance of power issue here," Koehler said. "The legislature and the Governor are two equal parts of government, one does not work for the other.”

Koehler says in order to get things done, the two bodies need to work together and compromise.