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Edgar: Lack Of Budget Causing Damage Worse Than Blagojevich

Jim Edgar headshot
Illinois Public Media
Jim Edgar

Talks between Illinois' leaders have come to a halt, even as an end-of-year budget deadline approaches. Former Governor Jim Edgar says that's a mistake -- Illinois needs a budget.

Edgar says Illinois economy will suffer for years as a direct result of the stalemate.

"The damage is ... the worst damage I've seen. I mean ever the bad years of Blagojevich and the image he gave of Illinois, I don't think has done anything as much damage as we've seen," he said Monday on the Illinois Public Media show "The 21st."

He says there are huge, long-term consequences of students choosing to attend out-of-state universities. And Illinois businesses are threatened by the government instability.

Illinois has gone a year and a half without a complete budget. That's put the state deeper in the hole, as it continues to spend more than it takes in. Edgar sees no way for the state to emerge out of it with cuts alone.

"You're going to have to increase revenues. Maybe you don't restore the income tax completely back to where it was before, but I think that's the quickest way you can get revenue into the system," he said.

Another revenue option is adding a sales tax to services. Edgar says he's philosophically behind that concept, but a new tax would take time to implement, thus it'll take more time to fill state coffers.

That's not to say a tax hike will be enough to do the trick either.

"There's going to have to be cuts, and those cuts are going to have to be somewhat severe," he said. Nor will the cuts be short-lived. He says Illinois lawmakers and residents will need to go on a lengthy fiscal diet.

Though he's a Republican, Edgar says he disagrees with GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner putting issues like term limits and workers compensation before a budget. Edgar says he and Rauner don't talk.

Edgar's wallet is benefiting some from the stalemate; a Chicago Sun Times investigation found that he has stakes in Illinois Financing Partners, a firm that is part of a state program that advances money to vendors who've done work for the government, but that can't afford to wait for the bill-backlogged comptroller to pay them. It's essentially a cash-advance, made necessary because of the state's own fiscal mess. Illinois Financing Partners will eventually profit by getting to keep late payment fees the state must, by law, pay when it finally is able to pay vendors' bills.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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