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Pritzker unveils business guidance; takes questions on budget, legislature, EO

Sunday, May 24, 2020

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* Gov. JB Pritzker held a press conference today to announce “industry-specific guidelines” to reopen businesses in Phase 3, which he claimed would bring “approximately 700,000 Illinoisans back to the workplace.” We’ll see whether that pans out, but in the meantime, click here for the press release and click here for the guidance page. We’ll discuss it Tuesday.

* On to questions for the governor. This budget keeps funding flat for schools and universities. This was a big talking point last night. [But the budget] gives lawmakers a pay raise. And several people are concerned about that. How can you tell Illinoisans this was the right move?…

Well, as you know, actually the appropriations bill does not have those dollars in it. So even though the budget seems to have it in there, it was taken out I think maybe perhaps both in the BIMP and in the appropriations bill. So I do not think that legislators will in fact get a raise this year.

Certain lawmakers still think that’s there…

Some do, but I have to say I’ve spoken with several including Heather Steans, including Senator Manar and others who seem to feel that, no, they managed to get that out of it and took care of it either in the BIMP or the appropriations. I have to tell you that at least when I heard it at 11 o’clock last night, I don’t think I recall which one of those bills.

    [A little aside here: The provision is not in the BIMP, but Senate President Harmon said last night ‘there’s not a dollar in our budget appropriated to pay any cost of living adjustments for legislators.”

    That doesn’t matter, however. The COLAs are on auto-pilot. Click here for a good explainer about why and why the comptroller can’t legally stop them, as was claimed last night. They have to vote themselves to stop it from happening.]

    …Adding… From a Senate Democrat: “We appropriated the COLA separately last year and passed it. This year we zeroed it out but left the COLA language in the bill with a ‘$0′ next to it. It would be different if the budget was silent and didn’t even reference COLA but that isn’t the case. It says “$0″ next to the COLA which is quite unprecedented.”

    That might work, but I dunno what the courts will do here.

* The emergency proposal that would have given relief to renters and homeowners failed to get enough support from the General Assembly. Advocates are saying today thousands may end up homeless once this COVID-19 [eviction] moratorium is lifted because of lobbyists and the real estate industry. What will you do to make sure these families will be able to keep their homes? This is a big concern…

It is a big concern and as you know I’ve already done quite a lot to try to make sure people do stay in their homes, both by banning or putting a moratorium on evictions during this pandemic, as well as providing assistance through our homeless assistance funds in the Department of Human Services which goes to rent payments. And then this budget actually does put quite a lot of money forward to support people in their rent payments their mortgage payments who need it. It’s much more than was there in last year’s budget, for example, a multiple. And so I think that’s a good start. There’s no doubt, though that what we had to do and I think this was fair, there are a lot of people who are, they own a home, just their own home and they may be renting out a part of that home, perhaps a duplex. And so when you say well gee, we’re going to give a rent moratorium for the people who live in the duplex, that may be the only income that the person who owns that home has. They may be in the business of renting out a part of their own home. And so that’s just one example, but there are a lot of very small owners of property who are suffering too, along with the people who live in those residences. So I just want to be clear that what we’re trying to do is to find a middle ground here so that neither side is suffering the terrible effects of being evicted or not having any income at all. And that subsidization, and it’s hundreds of millions of dollars, will benefit quite a lot of people.

* I’m curious about why the state didn’t offer more relief to municipalities. I know the LGDF boost. But there’s only $125 million across 1700 municipalities, and there’s $250 million in CARES Act money for coronavirus reimbursement. But what is there to prevent layoffs of first responders and other cuts, due to the drop off of local tax revenues. After all, municipalities are a creature of state government…

Well, that’s one of the reasons why we need a new federal act for state and local governments. I know that [IML President] Brad Cole would agree with me that if we can get the federal government to move finally, and there are bills, there’s one that’s passed the House, there’s one that’s been introduced in the Senate, that will do that. That’s something I’ve talked a lot about, I made remarks about it here today about the state, but it’s also true for local governments. That package which is for state local governments is different than the COVID reimbursement package that passed before. This would give unrestricted dollars so that all of us, state governments and local governments, are able to keep the services up the people so badly need. You know the irony, the terrible irony is that during a pandemic, during an emergency, your revenues go down in a state, and the need goes up. … There’s really only in the in a global pandemic in a national emergency, there’s only one level of government that can help to fill that hole for local governments and for state governments and that’s the federal government.

* Last night Representative Tom Demmers said that this budget would only be balanced, it’s relying on a wing and a prayer because of the federal government. What would you say to that?…

Well I don’t know if he considers his colleagues, his Republican colleagues in the Senate, the wing and the prayer. But yeah, we’re relying upon them to do the right thing for Republican led states and Democratic led states. This isn’t something special for Illinois. It really is a problem that every state is experiencing. And so I hope that Republicans will step up here instead of simply complaining about the you know the need that the state has to do, what I’ve been doing and what so many others what Dick Durbin has been doing and others, to try to get dollars from the federal government to support our state, because they’re really the ones who need to come help all 50 states.

* So those that said that this is just kicking the can down the road the same old song and dance. What do you say to that?…

Well, they’re just I don’t know, they’re reusing a refrain from years gone by. That’s not the case at all. But kicking the can down the road, have you ever seen a pandemic hit Illinois or the nation, the way that this is? Have you ever seen a national emergency like this before? This is unprecedented and we’re all of us trying to manage through it. But here’s the thing we can’t do, we can’t overlook our working families or the people who are most in need, or most vulnerable and just say ‘Well let’s cut $5 billion. Hey, the coronavirus came along and tough luck to people who desperately need the state government and local governments to step up to the plate and help them out.’ Now’s the time when you need government to be there for you. So I hope that Republicans like Representative Demmer will reach out to their colleagues in the US Senate the Republicans in the US Senate to do the right thing.

* Governor, I have some questions on the budget, but I’m going to start with a process one. You mentioned you’re not sure what you heard at 11 o’clock last night, I think, in the Senate that day. I know all of us that were here can really feel that to our core, but there were a tremendous amount of wide-reaching COVID-19 measures. The budget, all of those were negotiated with working groups that didn’t have any public input. You said it yourself, you don’t know what you heard, we had to just as we went we had four of us reading all these bills. Is this an effective way to go through the legislative process?…

Well, again, this is a highly unusual moment in the world. You’ve never seen a legislative session like this. I’ve never. And I will say that although the public wasn’t able to come into hearings that the legislature had, that their representatives of both sides of the aisle were in fact in the working groups. It wasn’t a one sided set of working groups there were bipartisan groups working on these things. Sometimes they would ask for input and guidance from the executive branch and sometimes not. So, nobody thinks that this is our preferred way to operate to do everything in four days. Indeed, I was hoping that the legislature would have gotten together much earlier, it was their choice about when. I can completely understand. You saw how many people had pre existing conditions and either weren’t able to come, or people who are just deeply concerned about coming because they were concerned about getting coronavirus. So I have great sympathy for that. It’s a terrible circumstance that led to just having four days of session, but at least a budget went through and we were able to get a few important things done so that we can operate going forward.

* We all know this contains $5 billion in borrowing. You said you hope we don’t have to resort to that. But say the CARES act, a second CARES act doesn’t come through. Do we have a dedicated revenue stream or do we even have a plan to pay back that?…

Well there’s no doubt, we’re going to have to revisit the budget if the federal government doesn’t come through. I think all 50 states are going to have to be revisiting their budgets i the federal government doesn’t come through.

* Aree you pretty certain that on top of the federal assistance you will need to borrow the maximum $5 billion allowed from the municipal liquidity> Given the circumstances, would that count against Illinois in terms of what bond houses consider indebtedness? [Aside: That’s a good question. If borrowing from the Federal Reserve hurts out bond rating, we’re in junk territory.] What’s the 30 year rate on that, and doesn’t it just take us deeper?…

I believe the 30 year rate is something on the order, it’s certainly lower than the borrowing rate for the state of Illinois normally is. This is a Federal Reserve window. So it’s, I believe a little above 3%. I don’t know the exact percentage on the borrowing. But it was necessary and I’m glad that the MLF was available to every state. And I consider it short term borrowing because my hope again is that the federal government will help all of the states and municipalities, so we’ll be able to pay that back.

* Last year, Deputy Governor Dan Hynes asked agencies to prepare an actual actionable scenario to cut up to six and a half percent of their budgets. House Appropriations chairs and others have worked on scenarios where they could cut as well. We’ve seen an unprecedented drop in revenues. Yet, if you’re not going to implement any of those cuts now why even go through those practices?…

Well you’re assuming that none of that is included in the cuts that were in fact made in the budget. What I would tell you is that there was a strong look at what could be cut. Remember though, this is all in the frame of a vastly increased need by families, workers, individuals all across the state. And when we were looking for budget the budget challenge and trying to balance a budget before coronavirus all came along we were not thinking that we would have vastly increased need for rent and mortgage assistance, vastly increased need for supports for small businesses and all the other things that we needed to do in this budget package. So, it was a very good exercise and you saw that we did in fact implement hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts. Last year, we found ways to make some of the suggestions work. But in this pandemic, in this budget, as you know we need to take care of people.

* Are you going to extend your disaster proclamation when it [expires] and [replace it] with an altered stay at home order?…

We’re looking at how we would we want to make sure that we can implement the Restore Illinois plan. And that we’re taking care of the health and safety of the people of Illinois is paramount, so we’re looking at it.

* Republicans couldn’t force a vote to check your executive authority. But there is the commission which is I think 14 lawmakers, mostly Democrats that will report to lawmakers by July one. How is this not going to be as useless as countless other commissions that have been enacted, especially considering most of the state could be in phase four by the time this commission issues its first report?…

Well, the legislature has chosen not to be involved in many of the decisions that needed to be made by the executive branch. And I think, when you think about it, that’s why you have an executive branch. In an emergency, I can act quickly, the executive branch can act quickly. There’s no way that the legislature, you remember that week in March, when we had to successively issue orders, right, when we said that people couldn’t get together in large groups, when we had to close down schools when we had to close down restaurants and bars. Those were all decisions that were being made in very quick succession. There’s no way that the legislature could have been involved in that, decision-making in a quick fashion that’s why you have an Emergency Management Act. And it’s why you have an executive. And I would say that in the middle of an emergency in a pandemic it’s a good thing that we have emergency capability to get things done rather rather quickly. So, I’m in favor of working with the legislature I just did that over the last four days. Indeed, I would remind everybody that for the two and a half months or whatever up to this point, I have regularly spoken with not just the Republican and Democratic leaders but also Republican and Democratic members of the House and the Senate. Many of them didn’t mention that in their speeches on the House floor.

* So they did mention that this budget gives you even more authority to move money around. They say you never earned it. What kind of precedent do you think you’re setting with the executive power that you have right now? And would you be comfortable if Bruce Rauner was wielding that authority?…

Well no, that’s why I ran against him and beat him.

So, I, here’s the thing. This talk about earning the authority. Nobody knew a pandemic was coming along. There’s just no way that anybody had any clue that we would be in this situation that we’re in right now. And I would, I would do anything, give anything to not be in this situation, to not have this virus attacking people all across our nation. But here we are. So, I think that there’s a recognition anyway that we’re going to have an unusual year here. Things are not going to be going back to normal, as people know them, soon. We’re trying to get back to as much normal as we can. But as I’ve said, I mean you all came in here wearing face coverings, I presume not just because it’s required in the capital right now, but because it’s good for you for your own health. As you go out and venture out in the world I think we all understand that there are lots of things that all of us are doing that are quite unusual. And I think it’s going to stay that way for some time. So I’m going to try very hard to operate as I have, by the way, with transparency and letting everybody know what we’re doing, and also why we’re doing it. And the biggest thing is listening to the science and the data to make the decisions that we’re making.

* You said you’d be very disappointed if lawmakers don’t pass a bill allowing for small fines for disobeying your orders. They didn’t. Is there another emergency rule coming? And is there any point to such an extra rule if we’re going to be in phase three in five days?…

I am very disappointed. I think it was a complete abdication of responsibility on the part of the legislature.

Look, it was the director of the Illinois State Police, it was the Illinois State Police that asked for this enforcement authority. None of us want to exercise the ability to take away somebody’s license that’s been given to them by the state to do business. Nobody wants to shut down a business. What we were looking for is a way to issue a citation. Tthat really was what the director of the State Police asked for. And then we left it to the legislature to decide what that citation would be. And I was hopeful and expectant that they would deliver to me a bill that said that. But they were unwilling to vote on anything like that, or they didn’t get it done and so we’re going to have to look at other mechanisms. But the fact is that I think the legislature failed in this regard.

* Politico wants to know what you would like to see brought up during veto session…

Oh my gosh. I don’t think I’ve projected that far in advance.

* Comment on the Justice Department opposing Illinois’ state at home order?…

It’s been clear that the White House and the Attorney General have turned this into some sort of political attack against Democratic governors. But the fact is that my uppermost concern and consideration is the health and safety of the people of our state. And as you’ve seen I think I’ve operated with transparency and also with a desire to move things forward so people can get more back to normal. You know the idea that they would intervene iin a case in this state as opposed to some other state is I think for others to speculate why, but again I think there’s a lot of politics.

* After watching some highly partisan debates take place the last four days, do you think Springfield is as polarized as Washington?…

I do not. I know that there were many Republicans who stood up and they were on the attack, they’re, one or two from an area of the state the southeastern area of the state, that were particularly vitriolic, both outside the Capitol and inside the Capitol, or at least the session.

But I have to tell you, I talk to Republicans all the time, individually directly, and even some who stood up and you know and they were playing to the crowd at home by attacking and turning it into something partisan, honestly. When I talk to them individually, they just are concerned for the people in their districts, and they’re trying to express the, the anxiety that I think people are experiencing. We all are. You know this virus is still out there, we still haven’t figured it out. Nobody has, how to defeat it. The researchers are doing their best, but we are going to have to live with this for some time and it has different effects on different people across the state in terms of just their mindset. But I do not believe that Illinois is as divided a state as the rest of the nation is, and I have believed that from day one. I think all of you have seen I’ve worked across the aisle every day that I’ve been in office. Sometimes we disagree, sometimes I take a position and they’ve got the opposite position. That’s politics. But, the truth is we all have the best interests of the people of the state of Illinois. So I think we’re in a pretty good position to continue to work together going forward.

* Quick roundup…

* Notable bills passed on last day of abbreviated legislative session

* Pritzker unveils huge Phase 3 guideline list

* Pritzker ‘Disappointed’ that Lawmakers Failed to Pass New Rule to Punish Businesses Ignoring COVID-19 Order

* Pritzker Cites ‘Progress’ In Legislature’s Emergency Session - The governor got a budget, but he hit lawmakers for “abdication” in not giving him tools to enforce his emergency pandemic orders.

* Pritzker says lawmakers took ‘significant action’ to help state

* Pritzker: Changes To State Budget Accounts For COVID-19 Pandemic

* Chicago casino, budget get green light, in waning hours of special session

* Illinois lawmakers send Gov. J.B. Pritzker $40 billion maintenance budget that relies heavily on federal funding

* Lawmakers approve budget, adjourn session

* Lawmakers pass budget package to close out special session

* Illinois legislators pass bill sought by Mayor Lori Lightfoot that could bring Chicago casino closer to reality

* Big wins for Lightfoot and Pritzker in the just-wrapped Springfield session

* Editorial: After rocky start, legislative session like no other delivers casino win to boost Chicago and state - The grownups asserted themselves in the Illinois Legislature, settled things down and accomplished more than we might have predicted.

* Despite challenges in courts, Pritzker expects to issue more rules, possible extended orders

* Justice Department says Pritzker’s executive orders ‘appear to reach far beyond’ his emergency authority

* Press release: Business and Civic Leaders Applaud Governor J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois General Assembly for Supporting Small Businesses and Immigrant Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic in the FY 2021 State Budget

- Posted by Rich Miller        

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