President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama called for an end to partisan politics during a speech to the Illinois General Assembly on Feb 10.
“I think it was very interesting the way that President Obama said we need to work in a bipartisan fashion and work together,” Matt Patrocki, senior vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute told the Madison County Record.
The hour long speech drew on Obama’s early experience as a freshman Senator in the Illinois General Assembly.
“We didn’t call each other idiots or fascists who were trying to destroy America,” Obama said.
He called on examples from the lives of past presidents to illustrate that the political system has always involved polarizing issues and partisan politics.
“What’s different today is the nature and the extent of the polarization,” Obama said.
Like many states, Illinois has struggled with legislative gridlock.
The budget dispute between Rep. Governor Bruce Rauner and Democrats in the legislature has meant that Illinois has gone eight months without a budget. The situation has led to reduced state services, large-scale layoffs, and increased debt.
Rauner has refused to approve a budget unless the legislature approves his agenda in exchange for his willingness to raise revenue through tax increase.
“In a big, complicated democracy like ours, if we can’t compromise, by definition, we can’t govern ourselves,” Obama said.
Patrocki agreed that one of the biggest issues facing the General Assembly is partisanship.
“You look at the current state of the General Assembly, without a budget, without reform, without any progress on these fronts,” Patrocki said. “I think it’s time we stand with the president and put politics aside.
The President offered some action items to help reform politics. First, reducing what he called the corrosive influence of money in politics. Second, rethinking the way congressional districts are drawn. Third, modernizing voting and making it easier for citizens.
“The idea behind a redistricting reform, I think that would get a lot of the partisan issues out of the way that we draw our maps,” Patrocki said.
Patrocki said he would add another issue to Obama’s action items: Pension reform.
“We didn’t see one pension bill move forth last year,” Patrocki said. “To look at Illinois’s biggest problem, the pension system, see a place where you could see minimal reforms, and then not even come up to the table and discuss that, that’s problematic.”
In the short term, Patrocki said that law makers need to pass a balanced budget and present it to the governor.
“Unfortunately, Illinois is in financial crisis, and we need to be willing to bring everything to the table,” Patrocki said.