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National Editorial & Columnists

There's a dangerous divide between branches of Illinois' government

The Illinois State Capitol is less than a half-mile from the governor’s mansion.

Yet, the two buildings are light years apart politically.

That was proved, yet again, when the Illinois House voted 112-0 to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a government transparency measure. The bill requires state agencies to report monthly to the comptroller the amount of outstanding bills within that agency, as well as the amount of interest penalties on those overdue bills.

Rauner’s reasoning for vetoing the bill was curious at best, but more accurately cast as dubious.

A businessman himself, Rauner argued agencies already have to report that data once a year, and tougher standards would be time-consuming. He also alleged an attempt by Comptroller Susana Mendoza to “micromanage executive agencies.”

Since the state pays its bills, at least theoretically, on a monthly basis, like every business or individual, Rauner’s argument makes no sense from a business standpoint.

As for as the onerous time-consuming nature of the measure, that may have been true in the era of adding machines, but, in 2017, moving reports around is a simple matter of a couple key strokes.

How obvious was the fallacy of Rauner’s claims? The Illinois House voted 112-0 to overturn the veto. It’s difficult to imagine what else could amass that kind of unanimity in Illinois government.

Case in point – the governor’s veto of a measure that would prohibit municipalities from creating right-to-work zones, a key provision in Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda. Right-to-work essentially allows employees to work in union jobs without paying union dues.

Rauner’s veto was overridden by a convincing 42-13 margin in the Senate, but the override fell one vote short in the House, 70-42. That’s what passes as normal in the Illinois Legislature these days.

That’s why the override of the transparency veto is so stunning. Perhaps we’re reading too much into this, but it is alarming to see the statehouse and governor’s mansion so far apart on any legislation.

It’s a symptom of a larger problem in Illinois.

Despite passing a budget, albeit over the governor’s veto, and despite passing a school funding mechanism, it’s blatantly obvious our political leaders are still deeply divided by both policy and party loyalties – the transparency bill being one notable exception.

The budget and school funding mechanisms were important first steps in restoring the state’s financial health. Yet, in typical Illinois fashion, the executive and legislative branches keep tossing hurdles in each other’s way.

Monitoring bills on a monthly basis? That’s a no brainer. Everyone does it.

Yet, in Illinois, it’s a political fight that takes legislators away from actual issues. This non-issue fight does nothing to further anyone’s agenda. It takes up time that could be spend on more productive enterprises.

At nearly every level of government, we have lost sight of how our political process is supposed to work.

It’s not that difficult if our leaders truly have the best interests of the state at heart. Healthy debate of the issues is vital for our survival, but so is the ability to compromise and move forward.

That’s why it is alarming to see the gulf, even if just on one issue, that exists between the legislative and executive branches. Financially, Illinois is still in critical condition.

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