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This editorial is from the Feb. 18, 2018, edition of the (Champaign) News-Gazette:

Political posturing never gets old in our sorry state.

Gov. Bruce Rauner last week proposed a $37.6 billion spending plan for the 2018-19 fiscal year beginning July 1 that was not warmly welcomed by legislators.

Democrats, not surprisingly, rose to new rhetorical heights of outrage in denouncing Gov. Rauner's proposal, particularly an idea he borrowed from Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Speaker Madigan first and now Rauner have suggested transferring pension costs the state now pays for local schools and universities to those entities.

That would, no doubt, be a significant relief for the state and a heavy burden for universities and public schools. But skyrocketing pension and Medicaid costs are destroying the state's ability to function, a reality that prompted Republicans to ask Democrats if they have a better idea on how to address the state's disastrous, effectively bankrupt status.

They don't, and it's hard to imagine anyone else has a pain-free way to fix what ails us.

Illinois is a sinking ship that for years has spent more than it brought in while, simultaneously, ignoring its duty to properly fund public pensions and pay its bills in a timely manner. It's been reduced to borrowing money to pay off debts, a sure sign of desperation.

It took a while for the chickens to come home to roost. But many already have landed while thousands more are waiting for clearance to come down.

This, however, is an election year, no time to level with the public about the governmental malpractice that's been going on for years. So Rauner critics, acting as if the treasury is overflowing, will complain that he's cutting this and won't fund that.

That's why the upcoming budget process will, almost certainly, be another exercise in sleight-of-hand gimmickry designed to calm the public's nerves until after the November election.

What, specifically, will happen between now and then is difficult to predict. But Senate President John Cullerton, no doubt, spoke for Democrats in both the House and Senate, when he cited a litany of Rauner proposals and said, "We're not gonna vote for that."

Well, what else is new?

Majority Democrats in the General Assembly last year wrapped up a two-year budget standoff with Gov. Rauner after they persuaded a handful of Republicans to join them in passing their version of a budget and an income tax increase to go with it.

They swore up and down the 2017-18 budget was balanced. Of course, it wasn't and is somewhere around $2 billion in the hole. Look for them to try to run that play again, and here's the reason why.

Democrats can't do anything else. The state does not have enough money to do all that which legislators want to do. At the same time, they're extremely reluctant to push pension costs from the state on to universities and public schools because of the financial burden and political blow-back it would generate.

Of course, Gov. Rauner doesn't have clean hands on the budget issue either. He's clearly positioning himself for re-election, the best example being his suggestion that if his budget plan is adopted it will lay the groundwork for a slight state income tax reduction.

That's not just hard to swallow — it's impossible to swallow. But it makes a nice political point because Democrats will write their own budget plan and dare Rauner to veto it.

It's a shame the state is a mess. But the reality is that governance in Illinois has been reduced to a political kabuki theater in which each party points fingers at the other as they vie for power while trying to avoid the responsibility that goes with it.


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