* The State Journal-Register published an angry editorial demanding action right freaking now on a solution to the state’s terrible problem with past-due bills. While eloquent at times, there was only one paragraph on what’s holding up a solution…
Republicans are dead set on a “no borrowing” pledge, even though they concede that the current situation forces ordinary Illinoisans to carry the state’s debt load. Gov. Pat Quinn has pursued a borrowing plan that is too big. Rank-and-file Democrats say they’re hamstrung by the GOP.
Borrowing requires a three-fifths majority in both chambers. It’s never easy, and it’s impossible if one political party is dead set against any borrowing. It’s also impossible as long as Gov. Quinn is sticking to a large borrowing plan.
The Republicans want more cuts to pay off the old bills, but they’ve yet to put those cuts into an actual bill, and even they agree that their idea wouldn’t pay off all bills right away. Until they show their hand, or the Democrats can come up with cuts on their own (don’t bet your house on that ever happening) this thing is going nowhere. Gaming expansion would’ve provided some money for old bills, but Quinn is against that, too. So, everybody will just do their best to ignore the problem for as long as they can.
Obviously, what’s needed here is some sort of consensus, but there is no magic wand we can wave to achieve that consensus or even figure out what it should look like. I’m stumped as well.
* But there was some progress on facility closures, mainly for political reasons…
Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said he and other legislative leaders will work with him on shifting existing funds around in the budget to find the approximately $230 million needed to keep open the prisons, mental health centers, and developmental centers.
Cross said those seven facilities have one thing in common.
“To be blunt with this, I think (the governor’s) goal was to generate support for increased spending and/or his restructuring plan, and I think he thinks he needs to aim at Republicans. They were mainly Republican districts,” he said.
* Meanwhile, speaking of delays…
The clock will be ticking on efforts to overhaul the state’s pension systems when lawmakers return to the Capitol next month for the final three days of the fall veto session.
Although Republican leaders in the House say they can put up half of the votes, 30, on a controversial reform plan, Democratic leaders aren’t yet committing to a vote.
Any delay on a vote in the House could leave the Senate without enough time to debate the measure before heading home until next year on Nov. 10.
“I would be really surprised if anything happens on pension reform,” said state Sen. Shane Cultra, an Onarga Republican.
I’m pretty sure I agree with Cultra.
* Waiting until the spring is also a possibility…
Even so, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, an Orland Park Democrat who chairs the House Personnel and Pensions Committee, said backers might not want to call the bill for a vote unless they’re sure it will pass, because “it could be more of a hindrance to get something done in the future.”
If it is brought back during the Legislature’s spring session, he said, “I think the support would be there with the general public.”
Again, there is no magic wand that can be waved to find a majority on this bill in both chambers.
* But there was progress on some issues, even if they didn’t come up for a vote…
Without giving away many details, Kotowski laid out what he calls a “framework” for an eventual agreement.
First, Sears’ 20-year-old tax deal with Hoffman Estates would be extended so the company could recover some of the millions it says it has spent on roads and bridges in the area. Whether Sears would have to give up any of the $125 million in total tax benefits it’s seeking is unclear as the company keeps some of the details of its proposal secret.
Then, Sears would be penalized if it left for another state while the deal was still in effect.
And finally, more money would be sent to District 300. How much is still unclear, as money the school district would get might have to come at the expense of other local governments or Sears.