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“Governor Irrelevant”?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

* From the Tribune

…the governor’s involvement in crafting a new state budget has proved so minimal that Democratic Senate President John Cullerton told colleagues Monday that Quinn is “irrelevant” on the issue. […]

Quinn’s higher spending demands were ignored when the Senate sent him the final pieces of a $33.2 billion spending plan Monday. It’s more than $2 billion less than what Quinn requested. Senators, however, added an additional $431 million in spending on education and social services to a public works bill, daring House members to give up funding on projects in exchange for cutting the money.

Cullerton’s “irrelevant” comment came in a closed-door meeting with Senate Democrats.

“Yes, yes, yes, he used the word ‘irrelevant,’” said Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline. The comment was confirmed by three other Senate Democrats, who said Cullerton was characterizing the spending plan Quinn introduced as too far from what lawmakers could pass.

Later, Cullerton and his aides denied that Quinn was irrelevant to the budget process, noting that the governor fulfilled his duty to introduce a spending plan to lawmakers even though it “exceeded our revenues.”

* And then there was this

Gov. Pat Quinn has said that he is not in favor of gambling at the state fairground. While he hasn’t said he would veto it, the governor has said he opposes top-heavy expansions of gambling. He added that, each time a bill was introduced, it seemed to get bigger.

Lang noted during floor debate that the governor was careful not to use the word “veto.”

“Those of us down here are state representatives — we pass laws, and when we pass them, he gets to review them,” Lang said.

“If a bill was on his desk that paid off a billion and a half dollars of bills, and he had no other way to pay it off, I think he’d want to take a strong look at that bill.”

* And this

The House advanced the ComEd bill to the Senate on a 67-47 vote, despite an outright veto threat from Quinn

* And this

An attempt to overturn controversial new health insurance contracts for state workers and retirees was approved by the Illinois House on Monday.

The measure flew through the House on a 98-15 vote, but could be vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn, whose deputies OK’d the contracts for Blue Cross Blue Shield in the first place.

The governor’s office wouldn’t comment on a possible veto of the plan, but instead recommended workers and retirees review their benefits options in order to make a decision before a June 17 sign-up deadline.

* Coincidentally, this topic was the subject of my most recent statewide syndicated newspaper column

Shortly after Gov. Pat Quinn introduced a budget this year which was way out of balance, called for even higher taxes and increased state spending, the General Assembly decided to ignore him.

That was back in February. Things haven’t changed much since then.

The governor’s original budget proposal was just so out of sync with political and fiscal reality that pretty everybody knew pretty quickly that something different would have to be done. It wasn’t long before House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton decided that the best way to pass a reasonable, realistic budget was to cut the governor out of the process and hand the budget-making responsibilities over to the legislative appropriations committees, with strict spending limits.

When I asked Speaker Madigan earlier this spring if Quinn had become irrelevant to the process, Madigan said that the governor had not. Quinn had introduced a budget, Madigan said. That was the governor’s role, he added, politely ignoring the fact that for decades governors have had infinitely larger roles in the state’s budget process.

Senate President John Cullerton was asked last week why the governor has seemed so invisible.

“He kind of put himself in this position,” Cullerton said. “He proposed an unbalanced budget, and we’re cutting it.”

In order to make sure that legislators remembered he still had a big weapon at his disposal, the governor has repeatedly run right up to the edge of threatening to veto the legislature’s budget if he didn’t get what he wanted.

“I’m going to make it crystal clear to our legislators of both parties of both houses, we’re not going to jeopardize our economic recovery and our jobs for policies that are very, very harmful to our schools,” Quinn said in early May. “We’re not going to have severe, radical cuts in our education and our schools. We’re not going to have severe, radical cuts in our healthcare. We’re not going to put the healthcare of our Illinois workers in jeopardy. We’re not going to have severe, radical cuts in our public safety… We’re not going to let them do that.”

“My job,” Quinn said, “is to be the goalie to protect the people of Illinois from radical, severe cuts in their fundamental way of life.”

It’s true that Illinois governors have extraordinarily strong constitutional powers when it comes to vetoes. But governors cannot increase spending in budget bills. They can only reduce or eliminate spending. If Quinn did eliminate any spending, those programs would not be funded until the General Assembly returned to act on his vetoes.

If, for example, Quinn decided to veto the State Police’s appropriations bill because it didn’t meet his standards of protecting public safety, the coppers wouldn’t have any operating cash until legislators acted on his veto.

And since the General Assembly won’t return to Springfield until October or November, Quinn would have to call a special session during the summer and risk upsetting legislators so much that they might very well override him. And then there would go his remaining relevancy right out the window.

The governor also hasn’t seemed to learn any lessons. After being snubbed in February for introducing an out of whack budget, then complaining that legislators were cutting programs too much, Quinn actually had the gall to ask the legislative leaders last week to give him $300 million to spend any way he wished.

That’s simply inane. At a time when legislators were looking for even the tiniest cuts to preserve the same much-needed state programs that the governor said he wanted to protect, Quinn decided he’d ask for a gigantic discretionary fund.

Adding insult to injury, the governor didn’t even bother to identify a way to pay for his slush fund.

More than almost anything else I can think of, that request demonstrated just how far out of touch the governor has become this spring. All Quinn got out of it were rolled eyes, deep sighs and slowly shaking heads from people who had taken on the very painful task of trying to balance a budget that hasn’t been balanced in years.

If you want to be relevant, you can’t be counterproductive.

* Related and a Statehouse roundup…

* Senate panel OKs ending workers’ compensation

* State House passes Illinois version of DREAM Act for children of immigrants

* Lawmakers send Illinois Dream Act bill to Quinn

* Legislation would create private scholarship fund for illegal immigrant students

* Taylorville clean-coal plant gets go-ahead from House committee

* Bill toughening nursing home rules passes House

* Bike rider’s straight on red measure heads to governor

* Flurry of activity as lawmakers try to finish

* Senate adds $431M to Illinois budget

* State budget sent to Quinn

* Senate passes budget, sends it to Quinn’s desk:

* Legislative budget battle heading to final day

* Parties jockey for position on state budget

* House OKs Chicago casino, slots at O’Hare, Midway

* Illinois House OKs more casinos in gambling bill

* House OKs expanded gambling, including at fairgrounds

* House OKs massive gambling expansion

* House votes to add 5 casinos

* House OKs Arlington slots, Lake County casino

* House OKs ComEd rate plan, veto possible

* Quinn gets bill giving COGFA veto power on state health contracts

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Quinn T. Sential - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 5:51 am:

    Did Long, Pearson, and Garcia all have to get together and us their collective strength at once to shove Jacobs under the bus, or is any one of them strong enough to do so on their own?

    Nice of them to rat out Jacobs by name, but allow the other three Senators to remain anonymous.

  2. - Cindy Lou - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 5:54 am:

    –” The governor’s office wouldn’t comment on a possible veto of the plan, but instead recommended workers and retirees review their benefits options in order to make a decision before a June 17 sign-up deadline”.–

    Except , Gov. Quinn, you seem to simplify the process that many of us having to choice and change are facing. All the calls to the proposed provider for Q&A, comparisions on which covers and how this or that medication, blah blah…then the call after call to dr offices as to if they are accepting new people, not to mention that if you ‘wait’ until the last second to ‘choose’ one may find that dr already filled.

    Geez, stop the uncertain ‘maybe’ game…sign or veto the bill and let these people make informed precise decisions, that may not change in a few days or a couple weeks. We either have x and x plans or we have A,B,C,D,ect. This is our lives and health this game is toying with…some of us would appreciate an answer, one way or the other.

  3. - CircularFiringSquad - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 6:51 am:

    Slots at the Fairgrounds might provide the Capitol City with its first adult — money making — entertainment venue since Deja Vu opened about 40 years ago.
    Imagine a little night life — besides bucket nite.
    Some cash to maintain the grounds.
    Almost sounds innovative

  4. - Leroy - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 7:29 am:

    I’d much rather have Governor Irrelevant than Governor Extremist.

  5. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 8:16 am:

    If incumbents were not such wusses, they’d embrace some sort of “fair-map” constitutional amendment. Competition in all districts would be good for government, and governance.

  6. - OneMan - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 8:17 am:

    So does Quinn use his veto to become relevant. If so does he do it on the map?

  7. - Ron Bolek - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 8:40 am:

    How does it serve Cullerton to marginalize Quinn? The antagonism is counterproductive.

  8. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 8:44 am:

    Ron Bolek,

    Perhaps the legislature is sending a message that Quinn should think twice about amendatory and regular vetoes that their members might not sustain?

  9. - Hi - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 8:47 am:

    Quinn should get rid of Cullerton’s talentless people (especially at DCEO).

  10. - Abandon Ship - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 9:14 am:

    Calling Quinn “irrelevant” sort of lends credibility to some of Blagojevich’s charges that the legislature impeached him and removed him in order to set up a “Patsy.” I am not defending Blagojevich, but Quinn does come across as one of the weakest Illinois executives in recent memory and it does seem as if the General Assembly does not respect him at all. If Quinn chooses to exercise his veto power and pick a fight with the GA, it will be noteworthy. Thus far, he seems to roll over on almost every issue when the GA ignores his opinions.

  11. - wordslinger - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 9:15 am:

    Under the Constitution, the governor proposes, the GA disposes — particularly when the governor was just elected by a whisker.

    I doubt if it would have done Quinn any good to but heads with Cullerton and Madigan on the budget. It’s not like there are any GA members beholden to Quinn, I don’t think.

    Hey, the process is working as drawn up. I don’t have a problem with separation of powers.

  12. - JN - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 9:20 am:

    > I don’t have a problem with separation of powers.

    Came to say this. +1 to Quinn

  13. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 9:27 am:

    “How does it serve Cullerton to marginalize Quinn?”

    Quinn marginalizes Quinn every chance he gets.

  14. - Levois - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 11:09 am:

    Quinn…too much of a gadfly for his own good? People used to mention he was a gadfly.

  15. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 11:25 am:

    I hope before he proposes his next budget Quinn will sit down with the leaders of his own party.

    I would start with the approp chairs.

  16. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 11:34 am:


    In a way, I think the Governor should create an independent budget. HOWEVER, what needs to happen is that all of the parties to the debate use the identical, conservative revenue estimate. I like the idea that multiple budgets are created, which should contribute to the public debate. This last go-around had the interested parties starting from three different revenue projections.

  17. - dupage dan - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 11:36 am:

    That’s our governor - “P”retty “Q”lueless.

  18. - Louis Howe - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 11:41 am:

    Bottom-line: Quinn is an incompetent manager, as his “Goalie” comment indicates. He doesn’t understand that as Chief Executive his primary job is to manage efficiently and effectively the funding providing by the legislature. Anyone with a passing acquaintance of his policies and his staff knows that’s going to happen anytime soon.

  19. - Responsa - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 1:11 pm:

    =I’d much rather have Governor Irrelevant than Governor Extremist=

    Well now, that there’s an endorsement any pol would be proud to have on record.

  20. - jake - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 2:01 pm:

    The health insurance issue is a nightmare for those enrolled in Health Alliance. We are being asked to research the other plans in order to make an informed choice, except the relevant information is not being made available, apparently because it does not yet exist; i.e., the provider networks are not yet in place. There are so many crazy things about this situation that it would get too tedious to list them all. If the Governor does not sign the bill to undo this screwed-up procurement process he will have many thousands of people willing to sign a recall petition.

  21. - Bitterman - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 2:02 pm:

    PQ against gambling at the state fair…..hmmm I guess the dollars bet on the races during the fair are not real. But wait, it’s only during fair time and it’s only wagering on the ponies so it’s not really “gambling”. Have to agree with other posters here that PQ is making himself less relevant daily.

  22. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 2:32 pm:


    Quinn’s ideology has trumped everything else associated with being the chief executive of this state. This has been my takeaway from his tenure as governor.

  23. - Not a Newcomer - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 3:19 pm:

    I have often wondered if the Governor’s problem is that he isn’t focused/disciplined enough, or he has a staff that allows him to be all over the place so easily, or if it is both. Quinn and his Chief of Staff seriously need to re-evaluate their relationship with the legislature over the summer. Now that campaign and session is over with perhaps there will be some staff turnover and it is an opportunity to start fresh with new ways of thinking and approaching the G.A.

  24. - wordslinger - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 3:51 pm:

    –Quinn’s ideology has trumped everything else associated with being the chief executive of this state–

    What ideology is that?

    Quinn’s a regular schmuck from the neighborhood. That’s a good thing. And believe me, despite what anyone says, he knows every corner of Illinois.

    Forty years into politics, he ain’t rich and he never will be. You should get a medal for that in Illinois.

    He’s not a CEO. He should have gone for Senator, where I think he would have been awesome. An Illinois Catholic Irishman kicking the stuff out of the right-wing yabbos in Washington. A missed opportunity. Maybe he can still do it.

    I hope Dan Hynes gets back in the game, too. He has a lot to offer.

  25. - Just The Way It Is One - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 7:54 pm:

    No matter if one says being “from the neighborhood” is a good thing, so be it, but to call the Governor of the 5th most populous State in our Union, “a regular SCHMUCK” goes too far. Every Governor has his/her own ideology, and MANY great American leaders were never CEOs–sorry, but even in extraordinarily difficult times, last I checked, it’s neither a requirement for Governor or Senator (and some day, he may very well run for the latter again anyway and yes, would do quite well there as well). Quinn’s far from perfect, and attacked he will be, but like any “CEO” who may have become Governor of a State, he believes in trying to do what he sees as the right thing. Ah, the beauty of our Democracy. One branch passes it, the next may choose to agree, tinker with or veto it, and the third will figure it all out if need be.

  26. - Concerned Voter - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 8:14 pm:

    If the Governor is “Irrelevant”, does that mean they should just eliminate the position, save the taxpayers some money?

    I mean, if they can go in and change already negotiated and contracted raises with state employees, and attempt to change already promised pension benefts, how hard would it be to eliminate 1 irrelevant job?

  27. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 9:38 pm:

    Just The Way It Is One,

    Irregular SCHMUCK?

  28. - Dirt Digger - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 10:26 pm:

    Concerned Voter: Of course not, that would be a gigantic paid involving a constitutional amendment vote and just piss everyone off.

    This is just following the private market model of “layering” and insulating important decisions from those most able to damage them (ie the official decisionmaker).

  29. - Just The Way It Is One - Wednesday, Jun 1, 11 @ 5:24 pm:


    Just about any adjective before such a demeaning way to describe a man of integrity and good faith, who also happens to be the, like it or not, “Honorable” Governor of Illinois, goes too far. How about Fabulous or Horrendous (etc.) before the word? I’m just saying, it’s degrading, insulting, and beneath the dignity of such fine Commenters who regularly (or rarely) contribute their opinions to such a highly respectable political blog.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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