Members of the Illinois legislature started their special session this week -- to come up with a long-overdue state budget -- much as they've done business for nearly three years.
They got nothing done. Nada. Zip. Zero.
On Wednesday and Thursday, both the House and Senate adjourned after a short time without making any substantive progress. They have until July 1 to pass a budget or watch Illinois go into unknown territory and a third year without one.
Frustrating. Irritating. Infuriating. Nauseating. These are just the first words that come to mind to describe this ongoing debacle. Give us a thesaurus and we'd be here all day describing the incredible ineptitude of the so-called leaders of this state.
The expensive special session -- think $48,000 for each of the potentially 10 days they gather -- saw Democrats and Republicans both blathering that they're ready to compromise and the other party is to blame.
Aw, shut up.
You all have already jettisoned Illinois into having the lowest credit rating of any U.S. state. Without a budget, Illinois will be downgraded to "junk" status. Social service agencies and higher education are among the hardest hit, as The Associated Press noted, as the state's backlog of unpaid bills tops $15 billion.
That's $15,000,000,000 if you'd like to see the real number in black and white. For the 4,591,779 households in the state, that's is $3,266 per household.
Did we mention "nauseating"?
The state's overall debt now rings in at an estimated $203,000,000,000. That makes every single household's share a whopping $44,209.
Hey Illinois taxpayers -- are you mad yet?
No spending plan may mean transportation projects would be halted and some lottery games ended. The ripple effects of a third year with no budget in Illinois are practically endless.
As grim as the situation is, we're oh-so-slightly encouraged that both the House and the Senate at least have offered budget plans.
House Republicans want to cap spending at $36 billion and pass reforms including term limits and government consolidation, plus a temporary income tax increase, backed by GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner, as the AP has reported.
Senate Democrats have approved a $37.3 billion spending plan that includes cuts and an income tax increase, and are pushing it as a compromise option, the AP reported.
So GET A BUDGET PASSED ALREADY. Yes, we're shouting.
We're shouting because, among other reasons, locally, one of the real possibilities of a failure to pass a state budget this week is further severe damage to Charleston's Eastern Illinois University. Among the many awful effects of the fiscal injuries to Eastern is the once impossible-to-comprehend idea that maybe, just maybe -- do we dare say it out loud? -- the university could be forced to shut its doors.
Heaven help us.
EIU is not just a fine educational institution -- it is also arguably the area's largest employer and driver of employment. And it is a state-supported university. And state support is going right down the tubes.
EIU's success or downfall doesn't just affect this region. The entire state is in peril if our public universities fall like dominoes. For example, if EIU were to close, that is one less option for in-state tuition on top of the huge tax burden families are already paying
"Failure to act is not an option," Rauner said in a speech on the eve of the special session, the AP reported. "Failure to act may cause permanent damage to our state that will take years to overcome."
We're already there, governor. We're beyond crisis mode. We're in adjective-defying territory here.
Get the budget done! Or we're buying stock in tar and feathers.
-- JG-TC Editorial Board