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Far more heat than light

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

* Apparently, this situation calls for a futile gesture on somebody’s part. In this case, a front-page editorial

A year ago we declared “Enough.” The day after, the governor and lawmakers passed a six-month stopgap spending plan that did not provide lasting stability. That’s not good enough.

It’s time to demand that Governor Rauner and our lawmakers do what is right. It’s time for the budget to come first. To not do so will cement their legacy with one word that encapsulates the sorry condition of our state.


* Except here’s how the SJ-R described the Senate’s fairly reasonable balanced budget proposal

Every sign of progress has been marred by partisan politics. A budget was approved Tuesday by the Senate — with no Republican support. Even if the House concurs, Rauner likely will veto a measure only supported by Democrats. A bipartisan compromise is needed for Illinois to persevere.

A bipartisan compromise is required, but sometimes you gotta force the issue. So instead of saying the Senate’s bills should be put on Rauner’s desk and he should sign them, or at the very least the Senate’s proposal should be used as a template for a final deal, they punted.

* From the Sun-Times editorial

That Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois House and Senate would allow Illinois to stumble through yet a third year without a budget, as bills and debt pile up and businesses and residents leave, is beyond irresponsible.

And spare us the lecture about the need for structural reform first. If Illinois keeps going like this, there won’t be much to structure or reform.

* But

Meanwhile, Rauner and the Legislature — most specifically House Speaker Mike Madigan — have shown zero political courage. At least Senate President John Cullerton has stuck his neck out, pushing a spending plan through the Senate on Tuesday, without a single Republican vote, that includes tax increases and spending cuts.

Rauner is running political ads, the goofy ones with the duct tape, laying the groundwork for his re-election next year. But he is not governing. As we said in a previous editorial, the first and most basic job of a CEO — and a governor is a CEO — is to produce a budget. The buck stops there.

And Madigan? Mike is being Mike, as inscrutable as ever. Nobody’s can be sure if he has any interest in passing a state budget at this point, or if he’s biding time until he can run Rauner out of Springfield.

And yet no endorsement of the Senate’s plan.

The budget can’t be balanced without actual legislation. The Senate Democrats are the only people in the Statehouse who have passed just such a package of bills. If you really want to drive the argument, then endorse a specific proposal. Maybe even back the plan devised by the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago. Or the Illinois Policy Institute’s plan. Or Sen. McCarter’s plan. Something. Anything. Just pick a freaking lane, already.

Encouraging people to angrily vent over the phone without any direction is irresponsible and plays right into the hands of both Rauner and Madigan.

- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      

Caption contest!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

* A camouflage hat at a Boston concert?…

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** “Eyes are back on to the Senate”?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

* AP

The Illinois General Assembly is back to work after the Senate approved a major spending package.

Eyes are back on to the Senate on Wednesday to see how negotiations will shape up between majority Democrats and Republicans over issues important to Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The Senate approved a $5.4 billion tax increase for a $37.3 billion spending plan Tuesday. Republicans said Democrats were walking away from attempts to trade a tax increase for a local property tax freeze and Rauner-demanded reductions in the cost of the workers’ compensation system.

* A Senate Republican operative was super cheerful this morning about the spotlight finally being off that chamber after months of turmoil, and then I shared the above link. The response…

Who told them that?

I don’t think anybody did. The Senate President’s spokesman said he’s not aware of any scheduled negotiations on property taxes or workers’ comp. Cullerton is open to such negotiations, however.

The governor may want these talks to stay in the Senate, but those days are over unless he comes up with a new path.

The ball is in Madigan’s court now.

*** UPDATE ***  I explained some possible House scenarios to subscribers this morning and told them about Springfield’s special visitor. Here’s Greg Hinz

About two hours after Illinois Senate Democrats sucked it up and approved a big tax-hike bill late yesterday, two other figures were seen dining at a Springfield restaurant: Michael Sacks, a confidant and emissary for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Consider it a sign that the inevitable finally has arrived. […]

That leaves Madigan in position to box in Rauner. But what will he actually do?

Sacks, who was good enough to email me, isn’t saying — if he knows. About all he’ll disclose is: “I came down with a group to talk about education funding. With the prospect of a new formula and significant revenue, it is really important to get things right. It was great to be able to catch up with (Senate) President (John) Cullerton and Speaker Madigan and other leadership.” […]

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown says the speaker and governor are not now scheduled to talk. But he does allow that a Madigan budget and revenue package likely will emerge in committee “over the weekend.” It looks like that will be the first solid indication of the shape of the world.

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Mendoza warns of “breaking point”

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

* Crain’s

A federal judge could decide today whether insurers collectively owed more than $2 billion by the state of Illinois can move to the front of the long line of vendors waiting to get paid.

If they win, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, who pays the state’s bills, says she could lose the little room she has to decide who gets paid first. Currently, she says, she prioritizes payments for agencies that care for the most vulnerable populations: children, elderly and people with disabilities, among others. […]

The bill backlog for vendors has reached $14.4 billion, Mendoza said. Of that, private insurers that are contracted to manage the care of about two-thirds of Illinois’ 3.1 million Medicaid recipients are owed more than $2 billion. The budget crisis has created a ripple effect: When insurers don’t get paid, they don’t pay doctors and hospitals. Patients, particularly those on the state health insurance plan, lose out if their providers turn them away or make them pay upfront for care. […]

Consent decrees and court orders dictate how about 90 percent of bills are paid. But Mendoza has the discretion to prioritize who gets the remaining 10 percent, a small pool of money she wants to protect.

If the insurers win their federal case, the comptroller could lose control to the court of where that money flows. A victory for the insurers could be a “breaking point” for Illinois, she said.

* More…

A question I’ve had for a while now is what happens when the state just doesn’t have the cash to satisfy all these court orders? Does a federal or state judge take charge? And which judge? The state is dealing with several federal consent decrees and a state court which has ordered employees are to be paid without an appropriation.

*** UPDATE ***  The judge didn’t issue a ruling today. Both sides were told to return to court next Tuesday.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      

Can an oligarch be a progressive?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

* Tribune

After giving a typically fiery speech on Tuesday to those gathered at a City Club of Chicago luncheon in which she denounced Gov. Bruce Rauner and his No. 1 supporter, billionaire Ken Griffin, for contributing $70 million between them to re-elect Rauner, CTU president Karen Lewis was asked by Chicago Inc. what she thought of Pritzker’s largely self-funded campaign. […]

“Can one oligarch replace another oligarch?” Lewis responded, rhetorically. “What’s going to be different?”

Lewis said she’d met with all of the Democratic primary contenders, including Pritzker, adding that she’d shared her concerns with Pritzker about his estimated $3.4 billion wealth.

“He said, ‘But I’m a progressive,’” Lewis said. “I thought it was hilarious!”

“You don’t think that’s funny, that an oligarch thinks he’s progressive and says, ‘You know, I’m different’?!”

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

*** UPDATED x2 - Kennedy responds - Pawar responds *** Pritzker, Biss respond to Senate budget votes

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

* Last night and then earlier this morning, I asked most of the Democratic gubernatorial campaigns for their response to the Senate’s passage of a budget that includes new revenues.

Here’s Galia Slayen at the JB Pritzker campaign…

“It’s been 693 days without a state budget. Our state’s finances are in shambles and working families across Illinois are paying the price. Rauner’s pet projects and stalling tactics aren’t going to get our state the relief it so desperately needs. It’s past time for Bruce Rauner to stop playing politics and figure out how to govern.”

Not exactly an answer to my question. The Pritzker campaign is also running “interactive digital banners highlighting the 693-day budget crisis that Bruce Rauner created”…

* Sen. Daniel Biss voted for the bills, and his state office sent this out after the vote…

“It’s time to stop the dangerous, unproductive, two-year staring contest in Springfield.

“A budget is a statement of priorities, and while this one is far from perfect, it reflects some core priorities – health care for the poor, P-12 schools, higher education, an increase in the tax credit for low-income workers and vital services for those who need our help. It offers some short-term stability by making different choices and calling on everyone to share the burden of cleaning up Gov. Bruce Rauner’s failures.

“But long-term solutions to our fiscal problems will require bigger reform to create a fair tax system. We must repeal our constitution’s unjust and unusual flat tax provision; we must finally require millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share; and we must eliminate the current carried interest tax loophole that allows the super wealthy to evade state taxes.

“That’s why I am pleased that today we made progress toward establishing each of these policies and building the fair economy that is our only hope for long-term economic health.

“These are the kinds of honest solutions that taxpayers want lawmakers to find the courage to pursue. Until we do that, we will continue to fight budget battles like these – battles that result in winners and lowers – over and over again.”

* I’ll let you know if I hear from the other campaigns. Ameya Pawar’s Twitter feed was silent on the topic, as was Bob Daiber’s and Chris Kennedy’s except for this response today to Gov. Rauner’s demand for a property tax freeze…

How about telling us what the “fix” would be? Say what you want about Rauner, but at least he has an idea.

Such an odd campaign.

…Adding… By the way, the Kennedy tweet links to a story that’s partially about JB Pritzker’s new online ad.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Ameya Pawar…

I applaud my friend Sen. Biss for his efforts on the carried interest bill and the public servants in the Illinois Senate for putting the most vulnerable, our public schools, our social service agencies, and the future of Illinois ahead of politics.

We now have confirmation - something we knew all along - that Governor Rauner and the Senate Republicans he controls never wanted a budget. Social services are collapsing and people are dying because of Governor Rauner’s failed leadership and the Senate Republicans are now complicit. They should be ashamed of themselves.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Kennedy campaign…

It’s a sad day when, after almost two years of stalemate and stubbornness from a failed governor, we appear no closer to resolving a budget crisis that’s holding the entire state hostage. Chris Kennedy believes taxes and cuts alone are not enough to solve our problems. Illinois needs fundamental change from top to bottom to restore the promise of this state, including an overhaul of the corruptible property tax system that we rely on to fund our public schools.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      

In her dreams

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

* From the Illinois Policy Institute’s radio network

State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, said she prefiled to be a sponsor of the tax increase bill “because I think there’s a bigger conversation that needs to happen before there’s a tax increase.”

Ives said she’s not on board with any tax increase.

“There’s a lot of tax increases in here we shouldn’t even have a conversation about until we talk about cutting spending and doing more for the business community rather than making them the highest tax in the United States,” Ives said.

However, she says her attempts to control it in the House could be taken away from her through procedural moves.

She would love nothing more than a fight over sponsorship of SB 9, and that’s why I really doubt the House Democrats will do anything. Why make her into a national cable TV and talk radio martyr in her courageous and lonely battle against the entrenched Speaker Madigan? So, she’d better milk this for all it’s worth right now because at the end of the session she will almost undoubtedly still be the chief House sponsor of a huge tax increase.

* Politico

Now the bill moves to the House and into the safe hands of the staunch GOP anti-taxer state Rep. Jeanne Ives.

Screeeeech! Say what? Yup. Ives, a Republican, stealthily filed paperwork early in the session ensuring that the revenue bill to come out of what was then the so-called grand bargain would end up in her lap. So the Dems’ SB9 is slated to come to the same House member who told POLITICO last night she believes the state needs a “tax revolt.”

If the House Dems do decide to run a tax hike bill, they can shell out a Senate bill and amend it with their language. Or, they could use a House bill.

Remember, the Senate removed all the “if and only if” language from the grand bargain package that inextricably tied all those bills together. When Rep. Ives pre-filed for sponsorship back in February, that language was still in the grand bargain bills so her motion would’ve been a more important move. As it stands now, she’s merely sitting on a bill that can be easily copied.

No doubt this has great comedic value, and I’m all for that in times like these. But Ives’ move means nothing.

* Rep. Ives

“I want to be a part of the conversation when it comes to taxes and how any tax increase would impact hardworking Illinois families and job creators. Senate Bill 9 would give Illinois the highest taxes on employers of any state in the nation and make it more difficult for middle-income families to make ends meet. There is a bigger conversation that needs to be had before the state considers a tax increase; specifically on real property tax relief, responsible spending cuts and pro-business reforms to help create jobs in Illinois. I believe the best way for me to have a voice in that discussion is to control the bill in the House of Representatives as its sponsor.”

This sounds reasonable until you realize that no matter what sort of “bigger conversation” is had on property taxes, budget cuts and pro-business measures, Rep. Ives won’t be voting for a tax hike anyway.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

Support High-Performing Charter Schools

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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“I’m a big believer in win-win”

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

* We talked yesterday about a question posted by Edward Hadnott during Gov. Rauner’s Facebook Live event

What happened to the art of compromise? I know its not perfect but I feel that you, Madigan and Cullerton should work out a budget where the people win. I feel that you, Madigan and Cullerton let your ego’s get in the way of progress. Remember you, Madigan and Cullerton were elected by the people. Serve the people period.

The governor only read the first sentence, then gave a long, rambling response that appeared to indicate Democrats needed to compromise with him, not the other way around.

* Mark Brown tracked down Hadnott

It got me to thinking that I’d rather hear more of what Hadnott had to say than to listen to another day of everyone blaming each other in Springfield, so I tracked him down. […]

Some of you are saying “Amen,” [about Rauner’s response] and some are wondering how anybody could compromise with a fellow with that kind of tin ear. […]

[Hadnott’s] premise is simple: “I feel like three reasonable people should be able to sit down and work this out. It wouldn’t be perfect. But it would be better.”

“You can’t just have it all your way,” Hadnott said.

“In a compromise, I get A, B and C, and you get D, E and F. They keep saying win-lose. I’m a big believer in win-win.

I think that’s how a lot of people see it, and while those of us who follow these matters closely might get bogged down on the details, Hadnott is expressing the essence of the common man’s frustration over living in a state now on Day 694 without a budget.”

Hadnott also said that while he believes the governor is interested in finding a middle ground, he ought to stop talking so much about the past: “No one wants to hear about the past mistakes. The issue is where do we go from here?”

Anyway, click here and go read the whole thing. Brown gives props to the commenters here as well, so let’s run up his page-view count.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      

Unkind headlines

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

* They’re not inaccurate…

* AP: Illinois Senate Democrats vote for $5.4 billion tax increase: Senate Democrats added spending to a budget plan Tuesday to lure more Democratic support before voting to approve a $5.4 billion tax increase without a single Republican “aye.”

* SJ-R: Senate Dems approve $5.4B tax increase; budget fight continues: Opting to stop waiting for Republican support, Illinois Senate Democrats Tuesday moved ahead with a tax-hike-and-spending plan aimed at finally trying to end a stalemate that has left the state without a permanent budget for nearly two years.

* Tribune: Illinois Senate Democrats pass major tax hikes unlikely to become law: Illinois Senate Democrats on Tuesday opted to go their own way and passed a politically risky measure to hike the income tax and expand the sales tax, drawing the very reactions that almost surely doom the plan to failure.

* WGN: Illinois Senate approves 32 percent income tax hike in party-line vote: Illinois Senate Democrats decided to go it alone in the budget battle Monday, approving a spending plan that would raise the income tax rate in the state by 32 percent in a party-line vote.

* WJBC: Local Republicans decry income tax hike: Central Illinois Republicans were unanimous in slamming a proposed $5.4 billion tax increase which the Illinois Senate pushed through Tuesday with no GOP support.

* Some were more neutral, however…

* Sun-Times: Senate Dems call budget a ‘compromise’— but GOP calls it ‘incomplete’: Illinois Senate Democrats passed what they called a “compromise” budget on Tuesday, even though it attracted no Republican votes, was denounced by the GOP and failed to include the one piece Gov. Bruce Rauner said was most important.

* Public Radio: Illinois Democrats Pass Budget Proposal in Senate: The Illinois Senate passed a budget package Tuesday after a similar plan failed last week. The difference was several new “yes” votes from liberal Democrats. No Republicans supported either plan.

* Fox Springfield: Three Budget Related Bills Pass in the Senate: There was movement Tuesday at the Capitol, as three vital bills passed in the Senate.

* Bond Buyer: Illinois Senate Democrats go it alone on budget: Forging ahead on their own, Illinois Senate Democrats sent on to the House a $37.3 billion fiscal 2018 budget that relies on more than $5 billion of new tax revenue to help stabilize the state’s rocky finances.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      

Modernize the Vital Records Act - Support HB 1785

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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* Far more heat than light
* Caption contest!
* *** UPDATED x1 *** "Eyes are back on to the Senate"?
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Mendoza warns of "breaking point"
* Can an oligarch be a progressive?
* *** UPDATED x2 - Kennedy responds - Pawar responds *** Pritzker, Biss respond to Senate budget votes
* In her dreams
* Support High-Performing Charter Schools
* "I’m a big believer in win-win"
* Unkind headlines
* Modernize the Vital Records Act - Support HB 1785
* *** LIVE *** Session coverage
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Yesterday's stories

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