As Illinois lawmakers prepare for the new session on January 23, it's a rare luxury to have a budget in place. But keeping it that way is a greater challenge.
"The biggest priority that we have when we go back at the end of January is to start the process of fixing the $1.7 billion gap," said IL Rep. Tony McCombie, (R) Savanna.
Upcoming elections for freshmen reps might inspire more bipartisan cooperation. Still, it will pit campaign heat against a Springfield stalemate.
IL Rep. Mike Halpin, (D) Rock Island, puts it into perspective:
"It's always just a question of time management," he said. "We've got our personal lives. We've got our assembly lives."
A new school funding formula is designed to offer timely revisions, aiming to equalize the distribution across Illinois districts.
"Let's see how it's working annually," said Rep. McCombie. "Let's not wait several years down the road and then have to be reactive. I'd rather be proactive."
Close to home, a statewide contract dispute involves some 300 local AFSCME workers. Gridlock that Gov. Bruce Rauner blames for adding to the state's massive deficit.
"We need to make sure that we keep our government running, so that they have their jobs," said Rep. Halpin. "We also need to provide the services that our residents want."
For these state reps, there are realistic expectations about the upcoming session. Part of that starts with attitude.
"We all have to respect each other's positions and believe that we're all there to do the right things for our districts," said Rep. McCombie.
Coming weeks will set the tone for 2018 accomplishments.
"My hope is that we get a budget," Rep. Halpin concluded. "We don't go backwards from where we were two or three years ago."