Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar said the Illinois Speaker of the House is not the problem in Springfield during the state’s two-year budget crisis.
Edgar, the 38th governor of Illinois, visited the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute on Thursday as part of its 20-year anniversary.
As the keynote speaker, Edgar talked about the importance that the Paul Simon Institute has made in Illinois as well as issues the state is having now. He also took a few questions from the audience.
Edgar was the governor in 1995 when he signed the paperwork forming the Institute. When he took office, he was left with the largest state deficit. When he left office after two terms, he left his successor a budget surplus of $1.5 million.
Edgar spoke highly of the Simon Institute and the importance it has held.
“After 20 years, the Simon Institute has far succeeded any hopes I had for its success, and in many ways,” Edgar said. “The key to the future of this state is in our young people. If we’re going to have a good state, we have to have good young people who are motivated to be willing to provide their time to public service, to be involved in the development of public policy. And the Simon Institute has resulted in hundreds of SIU students being part of that process.”
After talking about the success and importance of the Institute, Edgar gave his thoughts on the current issues facing Illinois.
He touched on Speaker of the House Mike Madigan. He said while Madigan may not pass many of the proposals, he is not the cause of the lack of budget.
“He is not the problem,” Edgar said. “The speaker of the house is not the most powerful person in Illinois government. Even a somewhat incompetent governor has more power than Mike Madigan.”
Edgar said even if a budget gets passed soon, it will not instantly fix a lot of the problems the 22 months without a budget has caused.
“If you hold a budget agreement tomorrow, that’s not going to solve all the damage that’s been done,” he said. “It’s going to take years to undo the damage that’s been done.”
Many in the audience said they were excited and thankful to see the former governor speak in Southern Illinois. After his talk was over, the crowed erupted with a standing ovation.
“I thought it was wonderful. I was sure happy he was here,” Sharon Mayer of Carbondale said. “It was an honor.”