* For years, Republican legislators have been content to sit back and throw partisan bombs at the Democrats over just about every issue, but particularly the budget. The shoe was on the other foot yesterday when the Senate Republicans unanimously voted for the FY 15 budget patch…
Just two years ago state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, said an audit that he had requested showed that Democrats were “stealing” from the road fund.
On Tuesday, however, he voted in favor of diverting cash from the fund.
“It wasn’t an easy thing to do,” Brady said. “This may not have been perfect, but I applaud Democrats for working with Republicans and the governor to get this job done.”
State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said Republicans still believe the road fund is important.
But, he said, “Sweeps in previous years were just fueling additional spending.”
* And after years of going it alone (whether intentionally or not), the Democrats were given an opportunity to do a bit of stone throwing themselves yesterday…
Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said he couldn’t support it because it cuts education, even though the $150 million reduction would be offset by the $97 million available to help distressed schools.
“We’re removing significant amounts of money from a program that is needs-based, and we’re creating a new program with no rules attached to it,” Manar said. “My opposition is strictly on this continuation of what I would call an addiction in state government that you balance the budget by reducing education spending.”
Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, voted against the bill because it takes $350 million from various funds used for road construction and repair.
“That’s less money that we are going to have to build and maintain roads,” Sullivan said. “There’s been discussions there was surplus money in the road fund. Nothing could be further from the truth. This time of year, there’s always a pretty sizable amount in the road fund because we’re just getting ready to start construction season.”
The Illinois Department of Transportation submitted a letter to the General Assembly saying that using the money would not jeopardize any projects. Sullivan said he believes the letter was just intended to give cover to lawmakers to support the plan.
* But bipartisanship was the order of the day…
Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, acknowledged that the crisis was of the Democrats’ making when she urged her caucus to support the measure.
“We knew it was an incomplete budget,” Steans said. “This takes care of that without adding any debt and without any new tax revenue.”
Rauner issued a statement thanking the Republican and Democratic legislative leaders “for their leadership in fixing this year’s fiscal crisis.”
“With their help, a bipartisan group of legislators sent a strong message that the culture in Springfield is changing for the better,” Rauner said.
* And this is what happens when the leaders put together a structured roll call…
Overall debate on the two bills took only 10 minutes or so
That would’ve been impossible in previous years.