With the election of J.B. Pritzker as governor, Democrats will control the governor's mansion, the Senate and the House for the first time in four years. While Illinois remains a blue state, Southern Illinois' congressional contingent got a bit redder in November when Republican Patrick Windhorst unseated Natalie Phelps Finnie in the 118th District.
While divided government can sometimes lead to compromise — necessity is the mother of invention — that wasn't the case during Bruce Rauner's tenure as governor. Rauner's name will forever be inextricably linked to the two-year budget impasse that brought an already unstable state economy to its knees.
The state has taken some important steps back toward financial stability, notably paying down a significant amount of backlogged bills, but if the Illinois economy were a hospital patient, it would still be in ICU.
Universities, social service entities and state agencies have glaring wants and needs, but the state still cannot afford to address them. One more thing the state can't afford — two more years of hyper-partisanship.
Yes, Democrats are in control. But, Pritzker, Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Mike Madigan need to govern, not rule. The days are long gone when Illinois' elected officials can act with the sole intent of scoring political points.
To paraphrase former president Barack Obama, there is no Red Illinois, there is no Blue Illinois.
People are still streaming out of the state at an alarming rate. There was a story in this newspaper last week stating that only New Jersey has lost a greater percentage of its population to outward migration last year.
Southern Illinois University Carbondale, one of the region's economic engines, is still struggling financially, as is other state universities. The needs in our state run wide and deep, too deep to put party affiliation before sworn duty to the people of Illinois.
If the past four years proved anything, it's that such lofty ideals of bipartisanship and compromise are easily lost in the political clamor of Springfield. One needs to look no further than the ill-considered budget impasse.
Ultimately, the budget impasse was settled because a few courageous Republicans, including Terri Bryant of the 115th District, bucked party orthodoxy and voted for their district, their region and their state.
And, the new school funding formula, that according to another recent story in The Southern Illinoisan, is pumping new funds and new life into small rural schools such as Pinckneyville, Du Quoin, Vienna and Cairo, needed bipartisan support to become a reality.
As long as there is a central Illinois government, as long as there is a party system, there will always philosophical disagreements in Springfield. However, it is also important to realize that no one party has a monopoly on good ideas.
Although Illinois appears to be on slightly better financial footing than two years ago, there are still serious issues the governor and the legislature will face. Some, like the legalization of marijuana, will cause elected officials to weigh financial need against their personal beliefs.
For many legislators, voting on such issues will follow hours of soul-searching. Some will decide the benefits are overwhelming, others will reach the opposite conclusion. But, make a decision they must, that is why 'we the people' sent them to Springfield.
The important thing to every citizen of Illinois is that these tough decisions be based on something more than party fealty. That is unacceptable. That is something the state can no longer afford.
The only way this state can move forward is by Republicans and Democrats finding common ground. To Gov. Pritzker and members of the legislature we offer this request, no, a command, "Do it."
– The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan