This editorial also runs today in the Decatur Herald & Review.
Dear Gov.-elect Pritzker:
Congratulations on your one-sided victory in this month's election. With so many races around the country going down to the final few ballots — and with some races, including Macon County sheriff, still undeclared — the size of your victory and the early hour at which Gov. Bruce Rauner conceded is truly impressive.
Now comes the hard work. We appreciate your evaluation of the work that needs to be done as “real challenges.” When campaigning, throwing your money at problems worked fine. The state of Illinois' pocketbook, however, is not as deep as your personal one. We have a few requests we hope you'll keep in mind as you take your opportunity to right the ship.
* You've promised a budget will be in place by the end of May. Keeping that promise is vital. If you're unable, that will send the indication far and wide that our state is broken, probably beyond repair.
* Keep House Speaker Michael Madigan at arm's length. You will still have to work together, of course. But any kind of communication will look better than what we've seen the last four years. You are not beholden to Madigan. The statewide vote is your mandate. It gives you permission to govern your way instead of you working for the Speaker.
* Follow through on your support for an independent commission to draw the boundaries when the state has redistricting after the 2020 census. There could be truly competitive races up and down the ballot each cycle in our state rather than handpicked districts drawn at the command of whatever party is in charge.
*Let's hear some specifics about infrastructure. We hear much about how ours, like the rest of the country's, is crumbling. No one is taking a public position saying our infrastructure is fine. What we're not hearing on any level is what will be done, what needs to be done, where it will be done, who will do it and who will pay for it. This isn't something that can be solved overnight. But continuing inaction isn't getting us closer to anything.
* Keep partisanship to a minimum. You've indicated you want to rid Springfield of some of its “partisan rancor.” It's been so long since our state's elected officials have worked together, we can't imagine how much of a relief it would be if you're able to accomplish even a little of this.
* Think twice about any kind of tax increase. Be sure you can sell anything you might decide to the state's voters — all the voters. Illinois is back under one-party rule. A decade-plus of that status earlier this century put us in the mess we're in today. Your predecessor wasn't as capable of correcting course as was hoped.
* Develop a plan for paying the $7 billion backlog of unpaid state bills, as well as the elephant in the room that was essentially ignored throughout the campaign: The $130 billion of unfunded pension obligations. This can has been kicked as far down the road as it can be. We have to face it and take care of it.
* Keep your pledge to support education. Your predecessor flaunted his indifference to the issue. Ultimately, he was soundly defeated by support for Andy Manar's school funding bill. But damage has been done to many of our institutions of higher learning, and that needs to be reversed.
We realize not all of these requests will be easy, and we anticipate not all of them will be accomplished. We understand the challenge of keeping specific funding in place while asking for tax relief.
But there's a reason so few people want this job. We appreciate that you not only wanted the job, you actively pursued it.
Now is the time to follow the strong words with strong actions. We wish you good luck.