Shaw: Radical Changes Needed For Budget Negotiations In Illinois

If our elected officials operate with a little faith, a little humility, a little respect and a healthy dose of trust, perhaps we can get somewhere.

<p>Sun-Times</p>

Relationships depend on trust, and their potential - making one plus one equal three, which means added value, not bad math - fails when either side views the other as untrustworthy.


Two examples: One is the relationship between the two constitutional officers who highlighted a Better Government Association "Candid Conversation" in Springfield on Nov. 30 entitled, "After the 8th - Time for Action."

Treasurer Mike Frerichs and Comptroller Susana Mendoza, both Democrats, say they developed a close, trusting relationship in their days as state legislators, and that will facilitate effective communication as their offices manage Illinois' precarious finances.

Trust and communication between our distributor of paychecks, the Comptroller, and the Treasurer, who focuses on the bigger financial picture, will enable more state workers and vendors to get paid and more vulnerable people to get by.

The second example: The toxic relationship between our two most influential government leaders, who do not have a relationship predicated on trust.

Neither House Speaker Michael Madigan nor Gov. Bruce Rauner believes the other is operating in good faith. The conversation stops before it even begins, and no one agrees on what the conversation is even about or what's being negotiated.

No progress is made. Vendors don't get paid. People suffer.

So now what?

"I think it's important we have solid, close working relationships based on communication," Mendoza said when asked about solving the budget crisis. She suggested the leaders agree on one or more points of common ground to jump-start the talks.

Frerichs told the audience, "I have seen the power of asking for forgiveness. ... If they wanted to, if they extended that hand, tomorrow could be a radically different day than today."

Asking forgiveness may be impossible for Rauner and Madigan, but it's a key component of leadership in times like these, according to the Treasurer:

"If you are in this because you really want to see things improve, sometimes you need to take that leap of faith. That's leadership."

Mendoza told the audience that these times demand leaders with vision, a desire to have a significant impact, and an ability to respect your political opponent.

Respect, she added, leads to solutions.

The night's discussion concluded with this thought: Only by taking the high road and working together will we see a balanced budget, and without a balanced budget we're losing opportunities.

Illinois is missing out on roughly $21 million in investment revenue this year because there's no budget, Frerichs said, and his office has to hold money back for possible fund sweeps and court orders.

One standing court order permits the Comptroller to pay state workers, so most people outside higher education and the state's safety net aren't affected by Illinois' steep decline toward fiscal insolvency.

Some believe the only way to spur action is to stop paying state workers until there's a budget.

Precipitating a crisis is an option for the new Comptroller, but is it the right one?

Even if it prompts a budget deal, who can trust a government that only governs when people suffer?

That's not good government.

We need a radical change in the negotiating process - a radical change in the attitudes of our state's leaders and a metamorphosis in the very way they view themselves, one another and the people they've been elected to serve.

Operate with a little faith, a little humility, a little respect and a healthy dose of trust, and perhaps we can get somewhere.

Norman Vincent Peale, the famous author and progenitor of the power of positive thinking, put it this way: "Change your thoughts and you change our world."

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