Welcome to 2008—another new year, and one which, I think it is safe to say, will be a pivotal one for our nation. By the middle of this month, voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other states will have already made their choices for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees, with more than 20 states, including our own, set to follow on Super Tuesday, February 5th. As others suggest elsewhere in this issue, now is the time to get involved.
Enormous, seemingly intractable issues remain on the agenda, and they’re not going away anytime soon. As we tiptoe through the wreckage of the subprime mortgage fallout and credit crunch, we’re hoping and praying that a recession is not just around the corner. We’re attempting to kick an unsustainable oil habit without putting economic growth at risk. And from terrorism to workforce competitiveness, we face global challenges of unprecedented scope and size.
This issue speaks to two of the major issues of our time—transportation and healthcare. Last August, we saw with our own eyes the dangers that stem from an underfunded transportation infrastructure, as the I-35 bridge collapse in Minnesota made quite clear. According to a recent study, the state of Illinois will require $5 billion a year for the next five years to maintain and improve our current transportation system—yet the available dollars don’t come close to matching that need.
Illinois has not had a comprehensive transportation funding program since 1999—a fact which needs to change soon. To this end, I suggest you go to FixOurRoadsNow.com and confirm your support for a capital program in Illinois.
In November, a public policy symposium entitled “Health Care for ALL Americans—Building a Bipartisan Coalition for Real Change” was held here in Peoria. In recent years, as we’ve watched healthcare costs spiral out of control, a genuine consensus has arisen: that inaction must come to an end, and meaningful, bipartisan reform must occur soon. This is no longer something we can kick down the road.
In this issue, State Sen. David Koehler and Brad McMillan of the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service make the same point: that the good work and recommendations of the bipartisan Illinois Adequate Health Care Task Force were overshadowed last year by the debate over the proposed gross receipts tax. While the business community does not apologize for pushing back against this wrong-headed funding mechanism, we recognize that fact. But will things be any different the next time around?
In many respects, it seems that 2007 was a lost year. I’d like to think that this governor has learned to play nice with others, but there has been precious little evidence of that. If we are to move forward with a truly collaborative, bipartisan approach, there must be some semblance of a climate of trust, and we in the business community must have a seat at the table.
In 2008, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. We don’t have any more time to lose. IBI