I telephoned Lou Lang, my state representative, on Tuesday morning. Those in the know tell me that Representative Lang and his colleagues in the Illinois General Assembly may skip town this Friday without bothering to take the tough steps needed to fix the state's $13 billion budget mess.
I called Lang to ask whether he thought it made good sense to leave Springfield at week's end without having offered -- much less passed -- a serious plan of action to resuscitate our dying state.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to ask him what he thinks about the wisdom of getting out of Dodge this Friday; I never made it past his call screener.
She kindly informed me that Lang doesn't decide when the General Assembly gets to go home. That decision, she said, "is up to The Leaders."
Surely, I responded, her boss must have an opinion about whether it's wise to close up shop on May 7, given the crisis facing our state.
It's not his decision, she told me again.
I was in no mood for bureaucratic buck-passing. I didn't call her boss to find out who gets to make the final decision about hanging the "Gone Fishing" sign on the capitol door. I simply wanted to know whether Lang thought it wise to leave town without doing the dirty work that was needed to get Illinois back on track.
I explained to her that it was Lang's opinion I was after -- not Mike Madigan's. Lou Lang is my state representative, I told her. He's not some potted plant in Mike Madigan's office. He's the Deputy Majority Leader of the House, I said. He's been a state representative for over twenty years. Where does he stand on this issue?
She wouldn't answer my question, but she did agree with me that her boss was not a potted plant, noting that he works on "very important legislation." She then took my phone number and my e-mail address, and that was that.
I'm fairly confident my contact information was quickly filed away in the drawer marked "Pain-In-The-Ass Constituents Whose Kids Shouldn't Get Legislative Scholarships."
In fairness, I'm sure my state representative is a busy guy, and he probably doesn't have time to return every phone call he receives. But he does need to understand that there's a lot of anger in the precincts right now. And those angry people are going to become angrier when they see that the real fixes for our state's budget crisis -- fixes that will likely include both an income tax hike and some deep spending cuts -- are being put off, for reasons purely political, until after Election Day.
So I guess the ball's in your court, Representative Lang. Why not make your case right here on the pages of Huffington Post? Explain to all of us why your constituents will be well served by a decision to skip town in May and leave our state's many fiscal wounds to fester until after the November election.
Better still, why not just step up and insist upon doing the dirty work now? It'll probably cost you some brownie points with the Speaker, but you can let him know that folks who hold power simply for the sake of holding power will never be confused with leaders. Not even in this state.
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