The Illinois Senate is poised to go it alone in outlining a solution to the nation’s longest-running state budget standoff but leaders acknowledge they won’t have time to push it through to the governor in the final two days of the current session.
A bipartisan Senate deal began to emerge late last week with a goal of breaking the nearly two-year deadlock between Democrats who control the Legislature and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. It was positioned for a floor vote by late Monday, but since the session ends Tuesday, there’s no time to push the plan to the House. It would have to be reintroduced after a new General Assembly is seated Wednesday.
The package includes an increase in the personal income tax from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent, borrowing money to pay off $11 billion in overdue bills, expanding legalized riverboat casino gambling, raising the minimum wage and eliminating pensions for retired lawmakers.
The Senate has been largely sidelined during the seeming test of wills between former venture capitalist Rauner and Michael Madigan, the Chicago Democrat who has run the House for most of three decades. But the Senate plan hasn’t involved the House, and is the result of weeks of talks between Democratic Senate President John Cullerton and Republican Leader Christine Radogno.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the package appears to “not yet be complete.”
“Until you have a complete package, it’s hard to even analyze, no less decide what works,” Brown said.
Brown also questioned the package as a whole: “That means you could take some precarious votes and if other things don’t pass for whatever reason, then you’re out there walking the plank.”
Brown instead encouraged the Senate to take up a House measure to fund higher education and social services, which was approved Monday 63-49.
Not exactly a substantive objection.
And since the House apparently doesn’t have the votes to override a Rauner veto of its stopgap budget, why would the Senate go along?
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, who negotiated the bills with Cullerton, said Monday she hopes the legislation can pass the Senate before Feb. 1.
“I think we in the Senate recognize the problems and we are potentially close to an agreement on how to solve them. But we are not quite there,” Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, said at a Statehouse news conference.
“One of the big takeaways from this is for the first time we’re acknowledging that we really do need to link the reforms, the revenue and the budget all together,” said Radogno, of Lemont. […]
“There was some resistance to the lame-duck aspect of this,” Radogno said. “We are often criticized for doing things too quickly.”
She said some senators only learned details of the package Monday. She said the concerns were “primarily” about the timing rather than the substance of the bills.
There were some substantive problems as well.
* Garcia and Geiger…
“None of this could ever become law, so today is somewhat irrelevant. But I think, in essence, we’ve made our point,” said Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington. “I think it puts the onus on both Speaker Madigan and Gov. Rauner.” […]
“At some point the campaign has to end. There is no ability to govern if you never stop campaigning,” said Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields. “At this point, doing anything less is unconscionable. We cannot go another two years like this.” […]
Cullerton, meanwhile, was left to explain why Democrats would go along with the compromise after spending years objecting to Rauner’s attempts to tie the budget to his legislative agenda.
“We’re two years into this, we don’t have a budget,” Cullerton said. “It’s an embarrassment for the state.”
Ain’t that the truth.
That said, there’s plenty of skepticism among rank-and-file legislators like Dale Righter, a Republican senator from Mattoon.
“If legislators come to the … taxpayers and say, ‘You know what, we just need a big tax increase, and we’ll tweak the curtains here and a little bit over here, but nothing substantive changes,’ I think that there’s going to be a rude awakening,” Righter says.
You get what you can get, and I think Radogno did a pretty decent job here. There will be some changes, for sure, but my hat’s off to the Leader.
Rauner took umbrage with the notion that he (and Madigan) have been “cut out” of talks.
He laughed at the question, then said “Well, I don’t know if I’d say ‘cut out’ if the right word. […]
“I don’t need to be in the middle of everything,” he said.
Maybe this is his “Eureka!” moment. But don’t hold your breath. He has to be in the middle of everything. It’s his nature.
The package that was introduced Monday in the Senate would increase the state’s personal income tax rate from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent and the corporate rate from 5.25 percent to 7 percent. Another component would provide an additional $740 million in funding for social services and $1.1 billion for higher education for the remainder of the state’s current fiscal year.
The Senate also is considering legislation that would authorize borrowing $7 billion to help pay down the state’s backlog of unpaid bills, which currently stands at $11 billion.
Also included are pension reforms that Cullerton has advocated, an increase in the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $11 an hour by 2021, and changes that would make it easier to consolidate units of local government.
A gambling expansion measure would create licenses for six new casinos, including one for the proposed Walker’s Bluff resort and casino in southern Illinois’ Williamson County and another for the south suburbs of Chicago.
The final package also could include changes to the state’s workers’ compensation laws, a referendum on amending the Illinois Constitution to limit lawmakers to 10 years in top legislative leadership positions, and an overhaul of the way the state funds public schools.