Thumbs down to the 736 days that Illinois went without a budget. Notice the past tense, because on Thursday, the House voted to override Gov. Rauner’s veto of the budget bills. The last two years inflicted long-term damage that will take years for the state to dig itself out of. The two-year wait for a bill that needed bipartisanship from the start is completely irresponsible. Moving forward, hopefully our lawmakers took note of what happened and will learn. Just because a budget has been approved doesn’t mean the work is over. This state still needs more work and reform when it comes to education funding, pensions and other key facets that put this state in the mess that we’re in.
Thumbs up to the Williamson County Board for keeping its word to taxpayers to give a decrease in property taxes. In 1997, the board became involved with the now-defunct Illinois Counties Insurance Trust company, which insured a self-funded pool for worker’s compensation claims. The money for that pool was raised through a 20-year tax levy, and as the bond is beginning to be paid off, Commissioner Ron Ellis said, the premiums are decreasing. "In 2016, the amount we owed dropped by $500,000, and so we passed that savings back to the taxpayers," Ellis said. As property taxes in Illinois continue to skyrocket, it’s refreshing to hear that one county is doing right by its taxpayers. And we’re even prouder that this county calls Southern Illinois home.
Thumbs down to last week’s closing of the University Museum on the campus of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. In June, then-Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell announced that the museum would close temporarily effective July 1 due to the budget impasse. Last week, Curator of Exhibits Alison Erazmus said it could be years before the museum reopened. Gone now is the opportunity for local residents to check out what the museum has to offer. Amanda Norris, who worked at the museum as a graduate student, said she helped organize the Arts Education Festival for elementary and middle school children. “Many of the schools said that this was (students’) only access to art. … To think that 3,000 children are not getting that opportunity anymore — and then they would come year after year to get new art inspiration — that’s one sad part,” she said. It’s really sad that the museum won’t be part of our landscape for quite some time.
Thumbs down to the State House Representatives who were not present this week for special session. On Tuesday, immediately after Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed bills that would give Illinois its first budget in a little more than two years, the Senate voted to override the veto. This sent the bills to the House for an override vote, but a lack of quorum pushed the vote to Thursday. Only 59 of the House’s 118 members answered the roll call Wednesday. Locally, Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro; Rep. Dave Severin, R-Benton; and Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, were present. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Smithton, was not present. We get that’s a holiday week, but what we don’t get is that this issue is very important and the governor called for this special session — it wasn’t a surprise. These sessions cost the taxpayers a lot of money, the least that can be done is to show up.
Thumbs up to the fact that the Fourth of July holiday was business as usual, according to local law enforcement agencies. “We didn’t have anything above and beyond normal silliness,” said West Frankfort Chief of Police Mike Irwin, who echoed what many of the other agencies said. Independence Day is a time for barbecues and fireworks, and sometimes things can get out of hand. It’s good to see that nothing major was reported in Southern Illinois this year.