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Our view: Illinois unable to pick up slack, if federal cuts made

updated: 4/5/2017 4:21 PM

In crafting a budget, President Donald Trump wants to get many responsibilities off the back of the federal government.

Cuts like eliminating community development block grants, defunding long-haul Amtrak service, slashing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would put a focus on the "highest national priorities," Trump said, while turning other duties to the states.

"It will largely fall to states, cities and companies to be the driving force of U.S. climate action," according to analysts the Rhodium Group, quoted by Bloomberg News.

Whether you love or hate that approach, it couldn't come at a worse time for Illinois, where lawmakers haven't passed a budget in two years and unpaid bills come to $12.4 billion.

The result is state programs are languishing and many residents are suffering. In just one instance, 4,700 people lost services ranging from drug and mental health rehabilitation to help for homebound senior citizens when Lutheran Social Services of Illinois cut back last year because Illinois owed it $6.5 million.

Meanwhile, the Illinois General Assembly is halfway through the spring session in Springfield with no solution in sight.

The 2018 legislative and governor campaigns are underway, dimming chances for a budget agreement that's almost certain to include a tax hike. Hopes burst this month when a bipartisan budget agreement fell apart in the Illinois Senate.

We strongly urge its architects, Senate President John Cullerton of Chicago and Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont, not to give up. And we call on those who would oppose a compromise for political purposes to get out of the way.

The plan imploded after GOP votes melted away amid Gov. Bruce Rauner's continued insistence on pro-business measures he refers to as his "turnaround agenda." Some Democrats on Wednesday put forth a countering "comeback agenda" that proposes a graduated income tax, public financing of candidates for state office, and a ban on economic assistance to companies that move any operations out of state. While we appreciate some of the ideas, the move is unlikely to be read as a step toward middle ground.

Somehow, both parties must find a way to get a compromise back on track.

It's imperative for many reasons, including this one: If the president's budget should become law, it will be up to Illinois government to decide whether to pick up the slack.

Now, there's no decision.

Illinois, with no budget and huge debts, can't help. That has to change.

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