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Our dishonest “debates”

Friday, Apr 7, 2017

* AP

The Illinois House wants to tap incoming but unallocated revenue to relieve struggling universities and human services.

The House voted 64-45 Thursday to authorize spending $817 million that is sitting in special funds during a two-yearlong budget holdup.

The stopgap funding deal approved by the House includes about $26 million for the Southern Illinois University System, plus additional Monetary Award Program, or MAP, grant funds that would benefit the campuses. That amount represents about 13 percent of the state appropriations SIU received in fiscal year 2015, the last year a full year’s budget was approved by lawmakers in Springfield.

“It is very encouraging,” John Charles, SIU’s director of government and public affairs, said after the vote. “We’re appreciative for everything that we get.”

* The Republicans complained, however

Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, echoed the belief of many Republicans that passing another stopgap budget will take pressure off of lawmakers to pass a full, permanent state budget. He likened the lack of a budget to pressure building up in a tea kettle.

“(This) gives crumbs to those institutions and organizations that rely on us,” Harris said. “These stopgaps are relief valves. They are relief valves for the steam that is building up.”

More on that topic…

But here’s a very good response…

Yep. On the one hand, the Republicans want to take the pressure off the negotiations by paying state workers through infinity, but on the other hand they argue that some of the most vulnerable Illinoisans should be refused help in order to spur a budget deal.

Kinda transparent.

* On to another point

Money for the lifeline budget comes from two special state funds intended to help education and human services. The two funds get a small part of income tax receipts as they are received by the state and are constantly replenished. The funds will have more than $800 million in them by the end of the fiscal year in June that cannot be spent unless the General Assembly authorizes it.

The money is just sitting there gathering dust while universities crumble and the social service network frays. If the Senate was making real progress on a grand bargain, I could understand holding off. But it obviously isn’t.

* More objections

Though Republicans have previously supported some stopgap spending plans, they said the difference this time is that they were not involved in negotiations. They questioned some of the spending, saying money was being set aside for things that were not urgent, including a program designed to produce teachers to work in distressed schools.

The House Republicans weren’t involved in negotiations by choice. Their leader was invited to participate and he didn’t respond.

* The second point is valid, but it would be even more valid had the GOP decided to participate

Rep. Steven Andersson, R-Geneva, said the bill also provides money to some programs that are no longer in existence, as well as a teacher-training program that Republicans contend has little to show for the money invested in it. Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said the plan includes $10 million for those programs.

No doubt that part of this vote yesterday was about politics. House members can go home today saying they voted to help people. The Senate won’t return for two weeks, however. And the governor is indicating he’ll veto the bill

Rauner has said he would not support another stopgap plan unless it included a permanent property tax freeze, a key portion of his political agenda.

Democrats have opposed such a freeze, saying it would starve local school districts that rely on those dollars. But they did approve a measure Thursday to expand some property-tax exemption programs, a move that could provide them some political cover to fight back against GOP claims they aren’t trying to give homeowners some relief.

That’s the political “tell” right there.

Besides that, all these property tax exemptions do is transfer the burden to other taxpayers. The money has to be paid one way or another, but Illinois politicians just love to narrow the taxing base whenever and wherever they can. It’s a big reason we’re in this mess today. Retirement income, food and medicine, services etc., etc., etc. are all exempted from taxation and that means others have to pick up the slack.

* Back to the original topic, however, the Sun-Times is exactly right today

Gov. Bruce Rauner opposes turning over the money, saying he prefers passing a full budget, tied to non-budget measures he favors. Rauner said the House bill would keep public universities and social services “on the verge of collapse.”

But ask anyone teetering on the verge of a cliff: It’s better to be there than going over altogether.

Even if the Senate finally agrees on a grand bargain that includes new revenue, it is less and less likely the bargain will cover what remains of the 2017 fiscal year, which ends June 30. In earlier discussions, any income tax increase was to have been retroactive to Jan. 1, which would have provided some revenue for the current fiscal year. But doing that in April — or later — would require withholding a bite out of workers’ paychecks that’s just too big.

Without a budget in place, pain stretches across the state. Seniors with disabilities are losing services. Cutbacks on mental health services, substance abuse treatment and after-school programs will drive violence higher. Once-proud university campuses are reeling.

The state has the money to help. The Legislature and governor should speed it along.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Norseman - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 9:54 am:

    Well said.

  2. - wordslinger - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 9:54 am:

    Not enough pressure to pass a budget yet? Every day, there are numerous reports on the human destruction being caused by lack of a budget, and Harris isn’t feeling enough heat yet?

    What’s it going to take exactly, to make him uncomfortable, do you think?

  3. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 9:55 am:

    It’s disingenuous to a fault that those House members feel it’s important, without a budget to pay state workers, and yet, state universities should starve for funding to actually function and fulfill their obligations of educating students.

    You can’t say… “I’m for education, STEM, higher education, and having the most educated workforce in the United States… ” … and outright refuse to see that assisting higher educational institutions here with this is needed.

    You hold hostage higher education, purposely, those House members are aiding Rauner in the want to close universities like Eastern Illinois University.

    As to the Social Services starving and withering due to a lack of a stopgap here, I refer to Diana Rauner calling the suing of Bruce a “business decision” and House members seemingly agreeing that suing Bruce Rauner is their choice, but helping to keep social services afloat just isn’t a choice… “until…”… until an agenda is realized.

    The monies are there and exist, same as the excuses to ignore the need and seem “thoughtful” why purposely hurting, by a choice.

  4. - Linus - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 9:57 am:

    ===The state has the money to help. The Legislature and governor should speed it along.===

    Period. Full stop.

  5. - Arsenal - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 10:06 am:

    The other problem with the “pressure” argument is that the pressure is put on the social service agencies, universities, students, people who need services, etc., etc., etc…and *not* the lawmakers. It’s the same thing with Rauner vetoeing the CPS bill- you want to punish Cullerton, so you’re hitting…CPS teachers and students? It makes no sense.

  6. - The Dude Abides - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 10:12 am:

    The Governor has told the House GOP not to support the stop gap and they will do as they are told.

  7. - Dublin - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 10:15 am:

    ===Besides that, all these property tax exemptions do is transfer the burden to other taxpayers. The money has to be paid one way or another, but Illinois politicians just love to narrow the taxing base whenever and wherever they can. It’s a big reason we’re in this mess today. Retirement income, food and medicine, services etc., etc., etc. are all exempted from taxation and that means others have to pick up the slack.===

    Rich, this is absolutely spot on and is truer than a lot of people realize. It’s the whole “government picking and winners and losers” argument.

    This is why many people think that are taxes are too high in Illinois - because certain ‘classes’ of people (mostly working class) are picking up a large part of the needed tax base.

    We must become realistic about a fair and broad tax system that treats people equally (and yes, a progressive income tax can be part of that solution).

  8. - Anon221 - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 10:19 am:

    It’s obvious Harris is more than willing to drink Rauner’s Kool-Aid and sit at the Rauner Bucks Buffet while people in his district foot the bill for his hypocrisy.

    “The House Republicans weren’t involved in negotiations by choice. Their leader was invited to participate and he didn’t respond.” Durkin’s complicity and silence. Now that’s leadership.

  9. - Henry Francis - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 10:20 am:

    A criticism often lobbed at past administrations was that they were unjustly picking winners and losers. These days it seems it is nothing but picking losers. There are no winners here, except the Guv and his vulture capitalist brethren.

  10. - AC - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 10:31 am:

    Illinois top two issues: a tax increase everyone agrees we need, and “structural reforms” where the actual argument is rarely mentioned (squeezing workers). The more I read, the less I understand.

  11. - Jocko - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 10:34 am:

    ==Rep. Steven Andersson, R-Geneva, said the bill also provides money to some programs that are no longer in existence…==

    Otherwise known as social services “reform”

  12. - justpeachy - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 10:44 am:

    “…passing another stopgap budget will take pressure off of lawmakers to pass a full, permanent state budget.”

    You mean like the pressure they have had to pass a budget for the last two years, that kind of pressure?? Obviously, it doesn’t work!

  13. - 47th Ward - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 10:48 am:

    ===If the Senate was making real progress on a grand bargain, I could understand holding off. But it obviously isn’t.===

    It was making progress. Then what happened? Honestly.

    In all honesty, following weeks of bi-partisan negotiations between John Cullerton and Christine Radogno, the Governor pulled rank and file SGOPs into his office and told them to vote no.

    If we’re being honest, let’s be completely honest.

  14. - East Central Illinois - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 10:49 am:

    Can someone please give me the HB or SB number for this? I want to see how my rep voted. I have a really good guess, but . . .

  15. - Anon221 - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 11:00 am:

    East Central Illinois-

    I believe it was this one…

    Voting record-

  16. - walker - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 11:13 am:

    I’ll take Harris at his word, and believe he would much rather have a full balanced budget agreement, than continuing stop gaps of any kind. He also has been open to detailed negotiations with Dems in working groups, and been informally critical of Rauner.

    However, it has not been clear whether he has a plan to move the boulder from here to there, or sufficient power. He might want to go a little more “Bost” with his frustration, and a little less “Mr Rogers.”

  17. - East Central Illinois - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 11:13 am:

    @Anon221 - 11:00 a.m.

    Thanks! I figured that is how Reggie Phillips voted. I still can’t figure him out. He owns multiple businesses in Charleston, several apartment complexes, and yet he seems hell-bent on seeing EIU and the other universities lose much needed funding.

  18. - Saluki - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 11:39 am:

    The Republican’s claim to the high ground on the budget no longer exists. Babbling about how we need a “full year budget” and how we need “business reforms” is falling on deaf ears.

  19. - Earnest - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 11:46 am:

    >the Governor pulled rank and file SGOPs into his office and told them to vote no

    Rauner has amazing skills. Even with his money, it’s hard to picture someone else who could take such firm control of legislators.

  20. - Anonymous - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 1:01 pm:

    And my invoices that the State owes my Small business, on my books, that date back to October of 201,, just goes to the back of the line?
    More unbelievable every day

  21. - Anonymous - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 1:01 pm:

    October of 2015…

  22. - Midnite - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 1:39 pm:

    It’s seems obvious at this point that the constant reports of services and residents in IL that are suffering are old news. It has become so routine that it’s not a big deal to those elected to make the rules anymore. Not saying that this behavior is ok by any means, but it’s clear that Rauner, Madigan, and the rest of the legislature care more about their political future, their seats, and their agendas than the IL public that put them there. NO MORE STOPGAPS!!!! FULL BUDGET!! Get off your soapboxes and give us a budget already!!

  23. - anon2 - Friday, Apr 7, 17 @ 2:07 pm:

    We’d all rather have a complete budget than a stopgap. If the former isn’t forthcoming, however, the latter is preferable to nothing. I realize Rauner doesn’t grasp that truth, but how about Harris?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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