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Past is likely prologue with state budget

Monday, Apr 16, 2018

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

I’ve read, watched and heard a whole lot of commentary about the upcoming state budget negotiations during the past few weeks and it pretty much all ignores recent history and focuses instead on one-sided claims of pending controversy.

For instance, this is from an April 7 State Journal-Register editorial: “Some Republicans have voiced in recent weeks the thought that Democrats, who control the House and Senate, might not want to have a state budget again, in hopes it will impede GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner’s re-election chances in November.”

But that prediction — along with other predictions some Republican legislators are making about stuff like the possibility the Democrats will try to jam through a half-year budget — ignores one of the most significant legislative events of the past several years: The 2017 bipartisan overrides of Gov. Rauner’s vetoes of the income tax hike and the budget bills.

That was not some isolated moment in history. Another bipartisan budget-related veto override could very well happen again this year. It would also be easier this time around because there’s no immediate need for another hugely controversial tax hike. All they gotta do this spring is pass a budget with existing revenues.

“The retiring Republicans have great leverage and will use it,” predicted a House Republican who voted to override the governor last year and is now serving out the remainder of his final term.

He’s right. We probably can’t count on all 10 of the HGOP members who voted to override Rauner’s vetoes last year. Some are retiring and may want jobs. Some are running for reelection and may want Rauner’s campaign money. The House Democrats have 67 members, a veto override requires 71, so if half of those ten Republicans vote as a bloc, they can drive the discussion throughout the rest of the spring session.

House Speaker Michael Madigan’s rank and file members absolutely do not want another budget crisis, so they will be pushing him to find a way to compromise, either with the governor and the Republican leaders or with that rump group of 2017 tax hike Republicans.

It’s also highly doubtful that Democratic gubernatorial nominee J.B. Pritzker wants a half-year budget. Who wants to take office and then immediately face a daunting fiscal crisis? Madigan, after all, messes with every governor, Republican and Democrat, over the budget. It’s a situation to avoid at all costs. Besides, those rebel Republicans undoubtedly wouldn’t go along with such a scheme anyway. If you have the votes, then do the responsible thing (like they did last year) and pass a full-year budget.

Not to mention that a lot of other Republicans who voted with the governor last year would much rather have a deal than yet another fight that they likely cannot win.

From the beginning of Rauner’s term, Speaker Madigan did not want to make a move on a tax hike without the governor’s cooperation and/or without Republican votes to override him. He simply didn’t want the entire blame and after losing seats in the 2016 election Madigan didn’t have enough votes to override a veto on his own anyway.

The same will undoubtedly hold true this year. Why make any unilateral, partisan budgetary moves when Madigan can once again claim to be cooperating in a bipartisan manner? It’s not as if he cares about state budgets beyond whatever political advantages he can squeeze out of them. And another successful bipartisan defeat of Rauner would definitely be a “win.” In fact, that’s likely Madigan’s best-case scenario.

So, despite what you may have been reading or seeing or hearing during the spring break, the real heat is on Gov. Rauner and his two legislative leaders. The governor has a horrible job approval rating, just barely won his Republican primary and is now facing a billionaire Democrat in what sure looks like a national wave year for the Democratic Party.

Rauner really needs a win. He and his leaders will have to either negotiate in good faith, or they can just punt it to the other side, and the governor can veto the budget yet again and spin the results as best they can.

The budget is the final major test of Gov. Rauner’s first term. Whatever happens will set the tone for the rest of the year’s campaign. He can yet again claim impotence (“I’m not in charge”) by ceding control to the other side or he can finally become truly engaged in the task at hand.

…Adding… Finke’s thoughts on the governor’s three budget demands (full year, no new taxes, balanced) are pretty good

That’s not exactly a lofty list. For one, even though some Republicans keep pushing the idea the Democrats will pass only a half-year budget, there appears to be no desire by them to do that. The Democrats fully expect J.B. PRITZKER to get elected governor this year and they don’t want him to start his term facing a budget crisis.

For two, lawmakers approved a 32 percent increase in the state income tax last year. Rauner has and will use it as a focus for attacking Democrats this year. Most lawmakers are up for election this year. Does anyone seriously think anyone is going to vote for another tax hike this year? So the governor has already achieved this goal.

Finally, we have the question of the whole mess being balanced. As anyone knows, balanced is in the eye of the beholder. Majority party lawmakers will tell you they pass balanced budgets all of the time. Rauner, on the other hand, insists each of his budget proposals was balanced when he proposed them. Few outside of government believe either of them.

So everyone can just agree whatever passes is balanced and voila, goals achieved.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

25 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 9:35 am:

    –“The retiring Republicans have great leverage and will use it,” predicted a House Republican who voted to override the governor last year and is now serving out the remainder of his final term.–

    If that prediction holds up, that’s the ballgame. They can call the shots.

    A rump faction of GOP House members had the power all along during Rauner’s term. They just finally chose to exercise it last summer.

    I don’t see many GOP members being too scared of Rauner after the primary, even with all his money. He’s not the most popular guy, anywhere. What’s the danger of bucking him?


  2. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 9:36 am:

    I can’t blame Madigan for not wanting to get scorched on a tax hike vote without Rauner joining him. Rauner proved he’s untrustworthy and disloyal when he let others take the override vote and whatever voter flak would come of it.

    Rauner wants to strip out health insurance from collective bargaining, as a budget proposal. It’s incredulous that this is a serious proposal, just like TA proposals that were deeply unpopular at the local government level and GA. That’s why the conclusion is drawn, among some or many, that Rauner purposely sabotages the budget and negotiations by inserting things he has to know have zero chance of passing.


  3. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 9:45 am:

    Although he hasn’t shown it himself to be true, Leader Durkin is the most powerful legislator under the Dome

    Leader Durkin, and his Caucus could decide so much, if they ever decide to do so.

    Rich, great work, as always, I guess my question, if there is a deal, is how can Rauner sign that budget deal… that uses the “Madigan Tax” to make it balance?

    Rauner can’t complain about the tax, and then have GOP members vote, and over his signature, have a budget requiring the revenue in the deal.

    The time for “you give us a turnaround agenda item, we let you raise taxes” is now long past. The revenue now… if used… with a signature… and the right messaging… buries Rauner and the GOP.

    “Rauner is using your raised taxes to fund his budget. Rauner is a big tax and spend phony, not looking out for the pensions lie of Illinois”

    Hmm.


  4. - Norseman - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 9:47 am:

    Once again, Rich nails it.


  5. - Arsenal - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 9:50 am:

    My question is how Rauner defines “a win”. If he defines it as a low drama budget process, then this can all be over quickly. But if he’s in “crisis creates leverage” mode, then we’re in trouble.


  6. - Lt Guv - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 9:56 am:

    Finke is spot on. Rich is too. God help us all.


  7. - Maximus - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 10:04 am:

    It’s a true testament of how bad the finances are when you have to explain to lawmakers what the definition of “balanced” is since neither party seems to be capable of crafting a budget that is.

    If Rauner tries that concept of presenting a budget with a huge billion dollar whole in it that’s going to be filled with savings from a mythical pension reform he is only hurting himself. Everyone sees through that.


  8. - My New Handle - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 10:06 am:

    ==Leader Durkin, and his Caucus could decide so much, if they ever decide to do so.==

    No snark, but what exactly could Durkin do “so much” of? Durkin certainly did not lead in the budget veto override.


  9. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 10:11 am:

    ===but what exactly could Durkin do “so much” of?===

    Work a deal to give cover of GOP votes for a budget that has programs that both Dems and the GOP want to tout in a passed budget.

    The goal is a bipartisan budget, passed with GOP votes, signed by Rauner.

    The art of “holding hostage” versus horse trading for cover for each side, Durkin can control how much give, and how much get Rauner can agree to, and holding Rauner to his word too… Durkin is the most powerful member under the Dome.


  10. - Cubs in '16 - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 10:15 am:

    Considering Rauner’s history of moving the goalposts those three ‘asks’ will likely change during crunch time anyway.


  11. - My New Handle - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 10:18 am:

    Durkin could have done those things all along, couldn’t he have? I wish he had. But letting Rauner buy the members of the Repub caucus taints Durkin’s leadership claim. And just how will, and why will, Rauner cooperate?


  12. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 10:45 am:

    ===Durkin could have done those things all along, couldn’t he have?===

    Yep.

    I also said those things all along too.

    Doesn’t change the fact that it’s still the same now.

    ===But letting Rauner buy the members of the Repub caucus taints Durkin’s leadership claim.===

    I’d ask the righteous Mr. Breen about that, to your point.

    ===And just how will, and why will, Rauner cooperate?===

    A governor with no signed budgets his/her entire term is not the best way to seem effective.

    Rauner needs a budget, Rauner can’t sign a budget using the “Madigan Tax” to balance it, and Rauner needs to have that “Tax” to rub on come the fall…

    *Enter Compromise (Engineered by Leader Durkin)*

    Rauner needs a crafty deal from career politicians that allows everyone the chance to win, and blunt the discussion of hypocrisy.

    Otherwise…

    Madigan and Cullerton should get 71 and 36, wait for Rauner to veto, then override… and see how the Raunerites run on never having a Rauner signed budget, and the last two budgets would be bipartisan override budgets, saving Illinois from Bruce Rauber.

    Mind boggling, I know…


  13. - Jocko - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 10:52 am:

    What are the chances Durkin gets “Radognoed” by Bruce?


  14. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 10:59 am:

    ====What are the chances Durkin gets “Radognoed” by Bruce?===

    Not too great.

    Durkin will fold, not as a slight or a dig at him, he’ll fold because Durkin knows, with this being an election year, he can’t go too far off the reservation and still get Raunerbucks.

    Mr. Breen came back, so that should give you an idea…


  15. - My New Handle - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 11:55 am:

    Oswego Willy, thank you for the insight. My mind is certainly boggled.


  16. - Let Guv - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 12:06 pm:

    Thank you OW.


  17. - Lt Guv - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 12:09 pm:

    Oops. Previous post by Lt Guv, not Let Guv. Damned spellcheck


  18. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 12:15 pm:

    It’s all good, - My New Handle - and - Lt Guv -

    Rauner handling this, and trying to figure out what Rauner should do, could do, and eventually will do, it boggles my mind constantly.

    That’s why having Rich start the discussions, he really clears the pea soup fog far better than I could.

    Thanks to you both.


  19. - Lucky Pierre - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 12:44 pm:

    Balanced is in the eye of the beholder?

    Not for the past 18 consecutive years of unconstitutional unbalanced budgets

    Seems to be more of a guideline for lawmakers to ignore while overpromising spending to their special interest groups, than a constitutional requirement


  20. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 1:01 pm:

    Oh “Lucky Pierre”, lol

    If you’d like to say a sitting governor, tax increase attached or not, without a single full fiscal year budget with his/her signature on it is a good thing… ok, I won’t stop you.


  21. - Nooooooo - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 1:22 pm:

    Don’t do it dems . You should Create as much chaos as possible and blame it on Bruce


  22. - Lucky Pierre - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 1:50 pm:

    Signing another unconstitutional, unbalanced budget even after a record 32% permanent income tax and no reform of state government or our business environment is a good thing?

    Hoodwinking gullible voters into believing increasing taxes on wealthy individuals and successful small business will solve all of Illinois financial problems.

    Keep defending the indefensible decades of overspending and overpromising by the Democrats OW, I won’t stop you.


  23. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 2:02 pm:

    ==overspending and overpromising by the Democrats==

    You are either being purposefully dishonest or you don’t have the first clue about the history of Illinois government. Tying this to one political party or the other is laughable.


  24. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 2:11 pm:

    ===Signing another unconstitutional, unbalanced budget even after a record 32% permanent income tax and no reform of state government or our business environment is a good thing?===

    You and @GrantWehrli… “no reforms, only taxes”… the tweets… at least I know that the talking points are the same.

    ===Keep defending the indefensible decades of overspending and overpromising… I won’t stop you===

    Signed by Thompson, Edgar, Ryan…as well.

    No signed budget by Rauner, oh, I agree, Rauner won’t sign a budget, Rauner can’t, the tax increase balances it.

    Now Rauner has to run without EVER signing a full fiscal year budget.

    That’s fun.


  25. - My New Handle - Monday, Apr 16, 18 @ 2:51 pm:

    Also fun for Rauner is running up the state debt by $8 billion, and all by himself, spending without appropriation and even actively encouraging that spending but actively opposing the suit to not pay employees without appropriation. And he wants to be my latex salesman. Actually, he is better suited to hawk balloons and other rubbery goods.


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