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End of session coverage roundup

Saturday, May 27, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Make sure to click here and check out the cheat sheet. Tina Sfondeles

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the Illinois House approved a $50.4 billion state budget that Democrats called a financially responsible and “compassionate” spending plan — and Republicans blasted as “another partisan one-sided budget.”

Just after 2:30 a.m., the Illinois House voted 73-38 to pass the budget, which Gov. J.B. Pritzker touted as his “fifth balanced budget,” vowing to sign it.

“This budget reaffirms our shared commitment to fiscal responsibility while making transformative investments in the children and families of Illinois that will be felt for years to come,” Pritzker said in a statement. “I look forward to signing this budget making childcare and education more accessible, healthcare more affordable, and our state’s business and economic position even stronger.”

* Brenden Moore

In all, there is a roughly $100 million surplus built into the budget. Even a small overrun could place it out of balance, especially with volatile revenue projections in recent months and variables like a still-unresolved contract negotiation with AFSCME, the union that represents state workers. […]

House Republican Leader Tony McCombie, R-Savana, said House Speaker Chris Welch, D-Hillside, offered “false hope for a new day.”

Welch, responding a few minutes later, said, “Work with us and put some votes on the board. … Don’t just talk, walk with us.”

The debate did get a bit salty at times.

* Capitol News Illinois

“We should not have to choose between being responsible for being a responsible state and being a compassionate one,” Speaker Pro Tem Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, the top Democratic budget negotiator, said on the House floor. “We can do both. I dare say we have to do both.” […]

“In our eyes, this isn’t a budget that provides for the future of Illinois,” Rep. Norine Hammond, R-Macomb, the House Republicans’ chief budget negotiator, said Friday afternoon ahead of the final vote.

But Democrats countered that the budgets they have pushed through since Pritzker became governor in 2019 have not only been balanced but have resulted in multiple credit upgrades from the three major rating agencies.

“If you want to vote for credit upgrades for the state of Illinois, vote aye,” Gordon-Booth said in her closing speech just before the final vote. “If you want to vote to fund the public school children in your district, vote aye. If you want to vote to fund the cities, towns and villages in your district, vote aye. If you want to vote to give low income and middle-income college students and your district the opportunity to go to college without being overburdened with college debt, vote aye.”

* Let’s switch gears and send it over to Steve Daniels

Legislation giving downstate utility Ameren Illinois a monopoly on future high-voltage line construction in its service territory cleared the General Assembly early this morning, with passage in the House.

Before the House vote, Gov. J.B. Pritzker pledged to veto the measure, which he said favors the utility at the expense of consumers. He now will get that opportunity.

The 63-32 vote in the House was eight votes short of the number needed to override a veto. The 41-9 vote in the Senate was well above the required override tally.

All GOP House members voting on the bill were in support. All 32 “no” votes were from Democrats, meaning more Democrats opposed a bill passing the House than supported it — a highly unusual result. Many of the opponents are backers of green energy policies. […]

With 22 House members not voting or absent during the vote, the result of a future override is difficult to figure at this point.

There are options here. He could simply veto out the offending part and push for an acceptance, for example. The fact that the bill was loudly and uniformly supported during House debate by the farthest of the far-right works against the bill as well.

* More…

    * Tribune | State lawmakers extend deadline for Chicago’s elected school board map: In 2021, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a bill that will shift the board from a seven-person panel appointed by the mayor, as it has been for decades, to a 21-member elected board by 2026. Legislators gave themselves until July 1 to draw a map of 20 districts from which the Board of Education members will be elected — the 21st seat will be the president chosen by citywide vote — but planning issues, disagreement between the two chambers and fears of a lack of representation forced an 11th-hour delay.

    * Tribune | Migrant crisis puts more pressure on Chicago finances as state budget offers less than sought: The $50.6 billion state budget approved by the Illinois Senate late Thursday and the House early Saturday includes $42.5 million to provide services for migrants arriving from the country’s southern border. That provision emerged earlier Thursday following an ask from Mayor Brandon Johnson; however, his administration had pressed for more, and the $42.5 million total will be available to counties and towns statewide, rather than just Chicago.

    * Tribune | Mayor Johnson aims to address a problem that vexed his predecessors: Woefully underfunded pensions: “As Mayor of Chicago, I am committed to protecting both the retirement security of working people, as well as the financial stability of our government so we can achieve our goal of investing in people and strengthening communities in every corner of the city,” Johnson said in a statement. “Together, with our state legislative partners in Springfield, I am establishing a working group to collaborate on finding a sustainable path forward to addressing existing gaps in the city’s four municipal pension systems (Firefighters, Police, Municipal, and Laborers).” Local Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, meanwhile, released a video in which he said he’s working with City Hall on broader solutions. The clip was seen as a positive sign due to the otherwise contentious relationship Catanzara has with City Hall and his claim that swaths of the police force would quit if Johnson were elected.


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