Friday, 24 November, 2017

Slow start to Illinois session called to solve budget fight

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks at a news conference in Chicago Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks at a news conference in Chicago
Grace Luna | 23 June, 2017, 05:16

"Right now, our state is in real crisis, and the actions we take in the days ahead will determine how history remembers us", said the Republican governor. The last fiscal year with a full underlying budget closed in July 2015. But Rauner is also spending money attacking Democrats.

But Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan said the focus should be on Illinois' finances. In California, state legislators and other statewide elected officers don't get a paycheck if they fail to send the governor a budget by June 15. One shelter that helps domestic abuse victims in several southern IL counties — some of the poorest in the state — says it'll close without an infusion of funds. IL has gone close to two and half years without a complete budget.

However, Democrats say a barrage of campaign-style ads funded by Rauner and his allies undercut GOP calls for unity. Among them are term limits for lawmakers, a four-year property tax freeze and new workers' compensation laws that would reduce costs for employers. Republicans and Senate Democrats fashioned a working compromise last week.

Republicans say they would be willing to support higher taxes if their other "reforms" are approved. Republicans say Democrats' efforts fall short of the reforms needed. Luckily, they will find his balanced budget, with his requested reforms, awaiting approval in the House that already passed the Senate. To pass a measure during the special session, a two-thirds majority is required. "Bruce Rauner purposefully drove the state off the rails, leading to nation's longest budget impasse in history, skyrocketing debt, a crippling blow to our higher education system, and a ruined social safety net". "So [we're] trying to put together a proposal to take back to our caucus and see, as we typically do, how much support there is", Harris said. The Senate, which also convened Wednesday, will also meet privately.

Reaching across party lines is the only way the state can move forward in a positive direction, but the compromise bill is not the solution, Ives said. Though we have retreated from it a bit, though at the steep cost of even higher taxes, lingering debt and pension obligations mean we are far from being out of danger, and we must heed the warnings of IL to avoid falling right back into that woeful situation. "We are looking at things like closing swimming pools, reduce after school athletic transportation, asking kids to get themselves to athletic events", Sanders said. Comptroller Susana Mendoza says IL backlog of overdue bills is more than $15 billion.

Retired University of Illinois Springfield political professor Kent Redfield said he thinks the special session could go either way.

"Failure to act is not an option", he said.

"Governor Rauner has made it clear that he has no interest in unifying legislators and passing a balanced budget", Bush said. Rauner said lawmakers need to act by then.

Failure to strike a budget agreement by the end of the state legislature's annual session on May 31 resulted in a critical credit downgrade for the country's fifth largest state to Baa3, the lowest of any state and only one level above non-investment grade - also known as junk.

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