One of the things I enjoy most about my job as a State Representative is having the opportunity to engage in vigorous debate with my colleagues in an attempt to persuade and ultimately reach consensus. To debate, to build the case for important policies and to engage people across the aisle-these things are at the very foundation of democracy.
This session’s budget debate got off to a rocky start because these days, there is a tendency to obstruct one another rather than to engage one another. But it’s time to move past that, and we can. Now that all members of the Revenue Estimating Conference have finally recognized the revenue projections for this year’s budget, we are facing a fiscal year in which we have at least an additional $119 million.
This will ultimately allow the final budget to look a lot more like my budget bill, HB 103, and to cover priorities likes pay raises for teachers and support workers, early childhood education, stabilized funding for higher education, and access to affordable healthcare, including the protection of individuals from being denied for pre-existing conditions. This is a far cry from the years of budget deficits and shortfalls that we have recently experienced. We have a chance to do better and we shouldn’t waste it.
The entire budget process is built upon the practice of our State partners, departments and agencies coming to the table and telling us what they need, what they can do with it, and how they can do better. Last week, we heard from the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Family Services. This week, we’re hearing from many more, including public testimony on Wednesday-which means we will be hearing from YOU! Hearing from them is vital to this process, but hearing from you is essential.
I want to hear from everyone. In fact, we need to hear from everyone.
We need everyone to be a part of the debate because that is the foundation of democracy. We need to prioritize engagement over obstruction, participation and partnership over partisanship. We need to do better.
I encourage everyone, including my colleagues across the aisle, to approach this session with a fresh start, a fresh voice. Because democracy is about everyone having a voice, using their voice, and then working together to come up with a solution that works. This is how we improve the quality of life for everyone-we craft diverse voices into compromise.
But first, everyone has to come to the table in a meaningful way, ready to work, ready to debate, ready to lead.