This past weekend was one of interest, patience, and disappointment. Last November, the citizens of Illinois voted for change in the status quo and change in the state’s operations — and future. Alas, that has not happened.
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is calling the Legislature’s spring session “stunningly disappointing” after Democrats passed a budget despite an impasse over how to fully fund it.
Democrats want Rauner to approve a tax increase to help balance a 2016 budget that’s more than $3 billion short of anticipated revenues.
Illinois’s financial crisis deepened Sunday as the Democratic-controlled legislature and Republican Governor Bruce Rauner failed to reach an accord over a spending plan for the budget year beginning July 1.
The collapse of negotiations occurred hours before the scheduled end of the legislature’s budget session, meaning any compromise to close a $6.2 billion deficit now will require a tougher-to-obtain three-fifths vote to approve. The stalemate leaves the nation’s lowest-rated state in danger of another downgrade.
As a summer showdown looms between Democrats in the Legislature and Rauner over just how much the state should spend on what, here’s a look at the Legislature’s actions, or lack thereof, this session.
Leaders of the Illinois General Assembly say lawmakers will be in “continuous session” throughout the summer.
Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton made the announcements Sunday, the last day of the spring session.
While we continue to examine where initiatives and priorities stand — including pension reform, a balanced budget, worker’s compensation reform, and more — we have some initial reports and headlines.
We’ll continue to update the post as more is learned. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts on the gridlock.
UPDATE 1: June 1 @ 3:37 PM
From Illinois Retail Merchants Association:
SESSION CONTINUES…TENSIONS RISE
As noted above, an FY 16 budget for the State of Illinois has not been approved. The Governor proposed a budget of just over $32 billion in February that was out-of-balance by $2.2 billion due to a pension reform program most considered to be unrealistic. In return, the House and Senate developed and passed a $36 billion budget that is $3-$4 billion out-of-balance. A parliamentary motion was utilized to hold the passed budget in the Assembly. That motion can be removed at any time by the filer and, once removed, the budget is then transmitted to the Governor. It is widely anticipated that this will not occur until very close to July 1st – the start of the next fiscal year. The effect of the holding motion is two-fold. First, it does give all parties time to negotiate further. Second, if nothing is agreed to by the deadline, it gives the Governor very little time to act. His choices are to either Reduction Veto the budget or apply a Total Veto. However, the Governor has already stated he intends to exercise a Total Veto immediately upon receiving the Democratic budget.
TWIS readers know that the Governor submitted a Turnaround Agenda and has publicly stated that he is willing to consider additional tax revenues for the state so long as portions of his Turnaround Agenda are approved. For example, the Governor is seeking reforms in Illinois’ workers’ compensation and tort systems as well as a property tax freeze, redistricting reform, and term limits. However, the Democratic-majorities in the House and Senate put significant pieces of the Governor’s proposals (i.e. workers’ comp, tort, and property tax freeze) to votes where, predictably, they failed to receive majorities necessary for passage. In the case of the House, the Republicans voted “present” to signify their displeasure with what they perceived as a contrived process and the fact they did not consider the proposals ‘real’ as they had not actually been introduced on behalf of, or written by, the Governor. Additionally, the House voted down the Governor’s human service cuts included in his budget proposal. In the Senate, Republican Leader Christine Radogno introduced significant portions of the Turnaround Agenda which were written by the Governor’s Office. These proposals were heard in long and often contentious hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee and then voted down along party.
At this writing, the prospects of agreement in the near future appear dim. Earlier this week, the Governor promised a $20-$40 million full-scale campaign to attack Democrats, particularly Speaker of the House Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, for what the Governor believes are their unwillingness to compromise, failing to protect the middle-class and ominous statements that the two leaders have enriched themselves. For their part, Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton claim to have been preparing for this all spring and have promised to respond in-kind painting the Governor as unreasonable, a threat to the middle-class, and bringing Washington D.C.-style politics to Illinois. Some of this has already started to emerge as they have described Governor Bruce Rauner as a Republican-version of Rod Blagojevich and have adopted a mantra that they are willing to discuss reforms they believe would help the middle class (e.g. minimum wage, paid sick leave).
Deadlines are what often help bring issues to a conclusion. In terms of deadlines, the first state paychecks will be due the second week of July. If there is not budget at that point, state workers will start to miss paychecks. The first General State Aid payment for schools is due approximately August 10th. Some schools will not be able to open if these payments are not received. Over-shadowing this entire situation are the contract negotiations with AFSCME – the union representing the vast majority of state employees. These negotiations have been widely reported to be very contentious and the word ‘strike’ has been bandied about. However, late in session, the Assembly, voting on party-lines, sent to the Governor SB 1229 (Sen. Don Harmon, D-Chicago/Rep. Mike Smiddy, D- Port Byron). This legislation would prohibit workers from striking, would keep the current contract in place until such time as a new agreement is reached, and would allow either party to invoke mediation. If a mediator is unable to bring agreement, either party can initiate impasse mediation.
It remains to be seen how this will all play out. If, indeed, both sides carry through with their threats, it is going to be a very long, hot summer in Illinois.