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A hard, consequential slog is coming

Monday, Apr 22, 2019

* My syndicated newspaper column

From the looks of things, the fine print of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s most important legislative priorities should start becoming public not long after state legislators return from spring break on Tuesday April 30.

Legislators, the governor’s office and stakeholders have been negotiating the nuts and bolts of numerous items for weeks and they’re just about finished.

So, we’ll apparently start to see specific language pop out in public for things like the legalization of cannabis and sports betting.

The statutory language for the governor’s graduated income tax, which will set the various tax rates, will also likely be unveiled around that time.

We could maybe even see parts of the infrastructure bill by early May, and possibly some language for a new graduated tax on video gaming.

Those unveilings will all be followed by a couple of weeks of hearings in both chambers and then floor votes will commence.

There are actually five scheduled post-break session weeks ending on the final deadline of Friday, May 31, which is fortuitous for the Pritzker administration because they’re going to need every possible day they can get.

Everything has a long way to go before any of this is a done deal. Successful negotiations don’t automatically guarantee majorities in both chambers. And some negotiations are still not finished. Nobody yet knows for sure how the infrastructure bill will be funded, for example, which is pretty darned important. Infrastructure costs real money and that money has to come from somewhere.

Some legislators are pushing for more property tax relief from the governor’s income tax plan, which, if they’re successful, would mean less money for state programs or higher rates than the governor originally proposed, or both.

And, as I write this, big decisions still need to be made about cannabis and sports betting legalization, although proponents hope to circulate a draft of the cannabis bill to stakeholders sometime around April 22.

As you can clearly see, this is not a light load, particularly since the governor’s office, and not legislative staff, appears to be drafting the final versions of their bills and the governor’s staff is not exactly brimming with extra people just waiting around for assignments. I think Pritzker’s staff is probably the smallest one I’ve ever seen.

There’s also this thing called the budget that still must be worked out. Gov. Pritzker’s budget proposal seeks to plug some big fiscal holes by using revenues from cannabis, sports betting, the new tax on video gaming and a bunch of other things that aren’t easy to pass. And that’s just the revenue side. There will be disagreements over spending as well.

Amanda Kass, the associate director of the Government Finance Research Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, crunched the governor’s pension proposal numbers this month and didn’t have good news.

The governor has claimed he wants to put about $900 million a year less into the pension systems than state law requires, but Kass’ research turned up a significantly higher $1.1 billion projection for next fiscal year (and for six years after that), which is giving folks heartburn.

Not that Pritzker’s fellow Democrats (or the Republicans) have anything serious to counter the governor’s proposals with, except on the edges. There are no real competing ideas out there, so the task at hand is convincing members of his own party to just grit hard and vote for these bills.

The governor’s budget also proposes stuff like phasing out the private school tuition tax credit program, which has strong support among some Catholic, Jewish and other legislators.

He would also impose a tax on disposable plastic shopping bags, which has the potential to anger millions of Illinoisans every week for the grand revenue total of a mere $20 million a year. And he wants to pick yet another fight with the powerful Illinois Retail Merchants Association over how much sales tax money that retailers can keep as payment for collecting the sales tax.

Not to mention that the Senate may be combining some energy-related bills into an omnibus package. And the House is working on a massive ethics/sexual harassment proposal.

And don’t forget the hundreds and hundreds of bills that were passed during the first few months of the spring session and are now awaiting committee hearings and floor votes in the opposite chambers.

This could turn out to be the busiest and most consequential final month of session I’ve ever seen.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 9:32 am:

    It seems like it’s been a boring session so far. But that’s about to change.

    I’m concerned that Pritzker put too many eggs in one basket and may not have a backup plan if legalized marijuana and betting don’t get passed.

    But there should be a lot of pressure also on those wavering on legalization. They need to do their jobs also. If they’re not going to support Pritzker’s budget proposals, they need to have some proposals of their own.

  2. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 9:34 am:

    –As you can clearly see, this is not a light load, particularly since the governor’s office, and not legislative staff, appears to be drafting the final versions of their bills and the governor’s staff is not exactly brimming with extra people just waiting around for assignments. I think Pritzker’s staff is probably the smallest one I’ve ever seen.–

    Is that intentional, having such a small crew and playing everything close-to-the-vest in-house, or is it a result of being unprepared to staff up in January?

    I’m curious as to why Pritzker isn’t having some of the legislative Dems do some drafting, making them take some ownership along the way.

    The two chambers might be heavily Democratic, but that doesn’t mean they’re monolithic or will be rubber-stamps for a Democratic governor. In fact, it’s not unlikely that there will be pushback along the way on some major issues, if for no other reason than to leverage personal agendas.

    The Pritzker crew is carrying a heavy load and have a very short window to deliver. If the wheels start coming off in the GA, they might regret that they didn’t have more legislative buy-in ahead of time.

  3. - Honeybear - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 9:45 am:

    I am so thankful for your hard work Rich. There is just so much uncertainty and confusion in this administration.

    Too much, done by too few, effecting so many, happening so fast.

    It’s like being on the event horizon of a legislative black hole.

    But thank you for the view you are giving.
    invaluable for those in the maw

  4. - Honeybear - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 9:51 am:

    Well said Word,
    It’s unnerving that I feel
    More like an ANZAC
    at Gallipoli
    than I did
    Under Rauner

  5. - NoGifts - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 10:02 am:

    Gallipoli? Maybe 100,000 men were killed there.

  6. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 10:14 am:

    –It’s unnerving that I feel
    More like an ANZAC
    at Gallipoli –

    I doubt that.

  7. - Honeybear - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 10:16 am:

    Feelings are unique to the individual
    So yes
    I do feel like
    State workers are going to catch it
    one may or the other.
    It’s metaphorical people.

  8. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 10:30 am:

    Pritzker has better get his people moving on this. Failure to pass any of his campaign promises this spring (besides min. wage) is going to lead to a lot of storylines he won’t like. IL media would love an excuse to write a bunch of stories about how JB might just be a failure and how Madigan vetoed all of his legislative priorities. Graduated tax rates, legalization and sports betting all poll well, is JB going to be the gov who can’t even get his most popular proposals passed without first getting MJM’s approval? They’ll inadvertently prove Rauner was right in retrospect.

  9. - Honeybear - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 10:32 am:

    I truly think Pritzker bet it all
    It’s going to tangled up.
    I think most efforts will stall.
    He’s bitten off more than he can chew
    He’s doing it with the smallest crew
    The economy tanks 3rd quarter next year.
    What happens then when those revenues are not in place.
    He’ll take it from the marrow
    Agencies and the workers who staff them.
    yep, I’m feeling that.
    4 years of Rauner has
    ground into me that
    nothing ever goes right

    especially when you’re arrogant
    so arrogant that you think you know
    what you’re doing.
    I don’t think Pritzker has a clue.
    BPIA™ coming out so ambitious?
    BPIA™ not gathering buy in?
    BPIA™ holding thing close to the vest?

    Excuse me if I’m pessimistic
    It’s my job that they are betting with.
    It’s my families income they are betting with.
    It’s my contractually and legally owed backpay they are betting with.

    Failure means
    Agencies cut
    Programs cut
    Benefits cut
    Jobs cut
    Unfilled positions

    So yeah, make fun of me if you want.
    It doesn’t make me wrong.

  10. - Anon for Not Much Longer - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 10:44 am:

    Dunkirk is more accurate. Can go to Japanese history, hope there’s a tsunami (of growth) to save us.

  11. - NoGifts - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 10:44 am:

    It may be a bad time, but it’s not going to be a “mad world of blood, death, and fire.” :)

  12. - don the legend - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 10:52 am:

    I think the Governor’s will get enough of his agenda approved. I believe the legislative majority needs his agenda to be approved. I believe the legislature knows new revenue is a must have and they do not want the Governor and the State to fail.

    The alternative of no new revenue, not paying our bills and watching the State continue to fail it’s citizens is too disturbing.

  13. - Roman - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 11:12 am:

    Lots of heavy lifts await Team JB.

    It’s hard for me to square the plodding, “we’ll-get-it-all-done-in-May” approach we see now with the sense of urgency they displayed the first few weeks of session on the minimum wage bill. I thought that was the first of several consecutive, well-planned efforts we’d see throughout the spring to take advantage of JB’s political honeymoon in the legislature. Not so much.

    Still time to pull things out, but he’s gonna need a lot of help from Madigan and Cullerton.

  14. - Responsa - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 11:13 am:

    I truly think that while in the euphoria of running Pritzker did not fully understand what the rubber meeting the road might look like and what would be expected of him to deliver after he was elected. For our state’s sake I hope he can catch up soon.

  15. - Honeybear - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 11:33 am:

    -I think the Governor’s will get enough of his agenda approved. I believe the legislative majority needs his agenda to be approved. I believe the legislature knows new revenue is a must have and they do not want the Governor and the State to fail.-

    OW taught me “politics is about addition not subtraction”. It is a fantastic insight.
    And…….it also needs to be said that you have to actually “add” to “add”. I’m seeing coercion at play. Do this “because”…… I’m not seeing “buy in” being reported. I’m hearing of a lot of “siloing”,” holding close to the vest”, in other words distancing legislatures from “buy in”.
    Good intentions and well wishes don’t mean crap.
    Answer me this
    How is Pritzker going to get
    his agenda through
    Using Rauners Legislative Liason staff
    because that’s what we’ve got
    Rauners Legislative crew
    Rauners Budget heavies
    Running and executing a heavy “slog” liberal agenda.

    Makes me think Pritzker
    is either super arrogant
    super naïve
    or super over his head.
    or all of the above

    And just like Rauner
    others are being held hostage
    to an agenda

  16. - Nonbeleiver - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 11:43 am:

    “Some legislators are pushing for more property tax relief from the governor’s income tax plan, which, if they’re successful, would mean less money for state programs or higher rates than the governor originally proposed, or both.”

    Property tax relief sounds good. But unless it is very specifically nailed down so that unless an exact portion of any increased income tax is tied to property tax relief what the citizens will get is ‘temporary’ reduced property taxes and then they will be raised again within a very few years.

    So back to BOTH high property taxes and higher income taxes. And those who pay both will be scratching their heads saying “But i thought my property taxes were going to be lower and now they are even higher than before.”

  17. - Nonbeleiver - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 11:46 am:

    And where is the Republican budget and agenda?

    And what are they doing to take their message statewide.

    As far as I can tell, NOTHING!

  18. - PublicServant - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 12:18 pm:

    They never learn. Quit promising, and fulfilling those promises by taking money from the pensions. And what’s with seven years of 1.1 billion a year less than the law requires? Nothing on the asset pledge? Make the hard decisions needed to pay our bills, all of them. And quit using the pensions for a piggybank.

  19. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 12:28 pm:

    The “go slow” people are getting their wish on marijuana legalization. It is going slow. It’s been years in the making. There is no final bill yet. We may soon see if go slow really is just an excuse to vote no.

  20. - truthteller - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 12:37 pm:

    years of inaction coming to an end. I like to see a complete review of how to eliminate 75% of taxing districts in Illinois and force Illinois into the 21st century. I would like see downstate school districts pay their fair share into THEIR teachers and administrator pensions. Quite the free ride. BTW, I am a downstater.

  21. - Former 2nd Floor Staffer - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 12:44 pm:

    I keep hearing talk about the Governor not be staffed up and how it’s posing legislative difficulties for him. But on the other hand, he has four deputy governors, a chief of staff, a legislative director, and a handful of other high ranking aides all of whom have past experience dealing with legislators or working on campaigns. Almost all of them are essentially getting two salaries thanks to JB’s personal financial generosity. If they can’t team up and get a legislative agenda passed, maybe we should stop questioning the quantity of staffers and start questioning the quality.

  22. - Dotnonymous - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 12:46 pm:

    I have full faith in our current Governor’s ability to move legislation.

    Illinois needs our Governor to succeed…quite obviously…even to the casual observer?

    Illinois needs a win.

  23. - Rod - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 2:14 pm:

    Really interesting to read how many complex and difficult pieces of legislation the GA faces as we approach the end of the session now that I am retired and no longer a registered lobbyist. It is incredibly stressful for all concerned, be they Republicans in the minority, or the Democrats who are driving the train. Staying at the Hilton or elsewhere, and trying to understand new amendments as they suddenly appear every morning wears one down if you are working multiple bills. Nice to be watching and reading about it instead of living it in Springfield.

  24. - striketoo - Monday, Apr 22, 19 @ 5:59 pm:

    I am disappointed that the new administration does not seem to have any focus on rethinking what state government should be and should not be doing. Are there simply no areas where some responsibilities could be shifted to local or federal agencies? We are overcommitted as a state and need a serious review of what we can and not afford to keep doing

  25. - Sidepocket - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 5:12 am:

    So, a better solution is to slow the roll down to Rauner’s level that was obstructive? Hurray for a person/governor who is beginning with a progressive and aggresive agenda.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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