* 3:29 pm - A St. Clair County judge has denied Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s motion to dissolve a 2015 court order mandating that the state pay its employees without an appropriation. More in a bit.
*** UPDATE 1 *** From AFSCME…
AFSCME, other unions successfully defend state employee paychecks
A St. Clair County Circuit Court judge has denied a request by the Illinois Attorney General to dissolve an order previously won by unions representing state employees, ensuring that state workers would continue to get paid on time and in full even in the absence of an enacted state budget.
Legal counsel for the unions led the defense of the order, arguing persuasively that by agreeing to abide by court orders, the General Assembly has in effect appropriated funds for state employee payroll. The judge indicated that he did not want to see state government shut down and that the balance of equities in the case favored continuing to pay state employees.
“Through all state government’s chaos of the past two years, the people of Illinois have been able to rely on state workers to be there, providing important public services,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “This decision ensures that that commitment can continue.”
*** UPDATE 2 *** Rauner administration…
The Rauner Administration issued the following statement from General Counsel Dennis Murashko in response to a St. Clair County judge denying the Attorney General’s motion to block state employee pay.
“We’re pleased our hard working state employees, who show up to work every day on behalf of the people of Illinois, will continue to be paid. It is our hope the Attorney General drops this lawsuit so the bipartisan negotiations in the Senate can continue in order to reach a balanced budget with changes to get our state back on track.”
*** UPDATE 3 *** Attorney General Madigan’s spokesperson…
We think the law is clear. The Illinois Constitution requires an enacted appropriation for state spending. Under the current injunction, the state has spent over $3 billion in taxpayer money without any transparency or legislative debate as required by law. The Governor is using this injunction to avoid following the Constitution and enacting a budget, irreparably harming the people of Illinois. We will appeal the court’s order.
*** UPDATE 4 *** We don’t have the judge’s ruling yet, but a friend who was in the courtroom said the judge appeared to be swayed by an AFSCME argument which references this language in the stopgap budget passed last June…
All appropriation authority granted in this Act shall not supersede any order of any court directing the expenditure of funds for fiscal years 2016 or 2017.
The GA didn’t appropriate any money for state employee payroll in that approp bill. It instead relied on the court order to pay workers.
Most of the stopgap expired at the end of December, but there are other approps in that bill that last through the end of the fiscal year.
Delivering his annual budget address Wednesday, Rauner ran down a list of things he’d like to see in the grand bargain. A number of those items, such as term limits on legislative leaders — that’s aimed at you, Mike — and making permanent a tax credit for research and development, already are in the mix. Other items, such as making a property tax freeze permanent and excluding food and drugs from an expanded sales tax, are not.
Only time will tell whether those are hard or soft demands by the governor, and whether they are politically doable or deal-breakers. The governor’s next steps will reveal just how amenable to compromise he really is.
But now the Senate could use a similar signal from you, too, Mike. Senators on both sides of the aisle will be asked to take difficult votes. That’s easier to do if they know they’re not taking a risk for nothing, if they know this grand bargain stands even a chance in the House and with the governor.
Would this be a win for Rauner? Sort of. He would get a few of the reforms he has insisted on. But only after 20 months of losing really badly.
If you were out to make point, Mike, you have.
Now let’s do what’s best for Illinois.
If the governor expects the Senate and the House to pass all of his “grand bargain” demands as-is, the whole effort is probably dead. Let’s hope he’s flexible.
* In the meantime, let’s go back to yesterday’s budget speech…
We’re asking for a worker’s compensation system that matches Massachusetts.
* However, the Massachusetts Division of Insurance also told LRU that it is tasked with approving workers’ comp insurance rate changes. As of 2015, those rates had declined nearly 25 percent since 2001, when rates were increased by a single percentage point.
Speaker Madigan has been strenuously arguing for state control over workers’ comp insurance rates here because he believes they are artificially high. So, maybe it’s time to make a counter-offer.
* More editorials…
* SJ-R: Lawmakers need to agree on more than the need to work together
* Daily Herald: The governor’s call for ‘political will’ on Illinois budget crisis
The speech broke little new ground, and repeated some long debunked myths. CTBA is combing through the details of the proposed budget, and will be providing more in-depth analysis over the next few days and weeks. […]
The first is that the Governor has proposed a budget with a $4.57 billion deficit — at a time when the state is projected to begin the next fiscal year with as much as $13.5 billion in unpaid bills. Even discounting that backlog, nearly $1 of every $5 the Governor proposes to spend on General Fund services is not paid for. […]
One of the most glaring inaccuracies in the speech was that Illinois has the nation’s fifth largest state and local tax burden. This ranking comes from a Tax Foundation report that includes taxes paid to other states. If you look only at taxes actually collected by governments in Illinois, then our state ranked just 27th in state and local tax burden as a percentage of income in 2014 — slightly below the median. And 2014 was before the phase-down of the temporary income tax increase; if our income tax had been what it is now, CTBA estimates Illinois would have ranked 37th, tied with Idaho and Texas. […]
The Governor’s demand for a permanent property tax freeze is not sound fiscal policy either. Freezing the main revenue source for local governments and public education will cause severe strain in communities across the state. Indeed, such an initiative would make it virtually impossible for communities to maintain adequate levels of such basic services as police and fire protection. This is an especially questionable proposal now, given that recent state law imposed a significant increase in pension funding requirements on local governments that will continue to grow over the next two decades. [Emphasis added.]
*** UPDATE *** The Senate Democrats have posted their own analysis of the governor’s budget plan. Click here to read it.
* Remember these unusual blame-shifting demands from Gov. Rauner’s legal filing to stop Attorney General Lisa Madigan from lifting a court order that mandated state workers be paid without an appropriation?…
Thus, even if the Attorney General could demonstrate that no specific appropriations existed to pay state employees (a factual matter that the Attorney General simply assumes to be true), the Attorney General would be required (but completely fails) to specify which employees’ pay can be stopped despite the above legal grounds for paying them. […]
In the event that the Court elects to follow this course, the Attorney General should explain which employees she believes must be deprived of a paycheck and which services she believes should no longer be provided to the people of this State.
ATTORNEY GENERAL MADIGAN PROVIDES CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICERS, LEGISLATIVE LEADERS INFORMATION TO PREPARE FOR BUDGET IMPASSE
Attorney General Lisa Madigan today issued an overview of information her office has provided to Illinois’ constitutional officers and legislative leaders to help prepare for the possibility that a State budget will not be in place for the new fiscal year. Attorney General Madigan issued this guidance in an effort to make sure that all offices and agencies have a legally supported plan in place to ensure that the State provides services critical to the people of Illinois in spite of the budget impasse. […]
Based on the Illinois Constitution, and consistent with previous litigation, the Attorney General has provided the constitutional officers with an overview of the application of the FLSA, so that State offices and agencies can be prepared to comply with that law in time for the payroll deadlines in mid-July. A copy of that guidance is attached.
Additionally, to ensure that all State offices and agencies are prepared, if necessary, to continue providing essential or core government services, the Attorney General also provided the constitutional officers with an overview of the process for identifying essential personnel and services. The Attorney General’s Office has indicated it will work with the respective constitutional offices to ensure that their essential government functions and personnel are appropriately identified and maintained in the interest of the health, safety and welfare of the people of Illinois.
“This isn’t about pointing fingers or assigning blame,” the governor said to some laughter from Democrats during his address in the Illinois House chambers. “We are where we are. It’s not about the past; it’s about how we move forward together.”
Nevertheless, there were some partisan games ahead of the address. Just before the speech, House Republicans urged Madigan to remove four signs that were taped onto podiums on the Democratic side. They read “Rauner budget = fake news” and “Rauner budget = alternative facts.”
“I think they’re within their rights to decide whether they want to put a sign up or anything else,” he said.
The signs were a bit much.
Also, I was astonished at the amount of derisive laughter during the address. He is the governor, after all.
Rauner also renewed his call for legislator term limits. He said term limits “get job creators excited. Passing term limits is one of the most important things we can do to send a positive recruiting message to job creators.” Democrats laughed openly at the statement.
Rauner urged the laughing Democrats to ask “job creators” about the topic and insisted they do support it.
Recalling the length of the stalemate, rife with accusations on both sides, Rauner said: “This isn’t about pointing fingers or assigning blame. ” That prompted a round of laughter from Democrats in the chamber.
Rauner’s chief political nemesis, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, who was standing behind the governor as is custom at the Capitol for such speeches, then offered some words that prompted Rauner to laugh.
“Speaker said, ‘It’s the Russians,’” Rauner told the assembled lawmakers and guests, prompting laughter and applause. It’s a reference to the national political scene and questions about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and influence with President Donald Trump’s administration.
Calling on parishioners to “speak for the children in the womb,” Cardinal Blase Cupich condemned legislation that would expand Illinois women’s access to abortion services.
The bill in question would eliminate a so-called “trigger” provision that would make abortion illegal in Illinois if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. It also would allow women with Medicaid and state employee health insurance to use their coverage for abortions.
The measure is a direct response from Democratic state lawmakers to Republican President Donald Trump, who has touted anti-abortion policies and said he would appoint Supreme Court justices with the goal of overturning Roe v. Wade. […]
The measure could be voted on in the House as early as Thursday. Cupich urged parishioners to ask their lawmakers to reject the bill and instead focus on passing a budget that funds “essential services.”
It is with some urgency that I write to you today, about a bill in our Illinois legislature, HB 40. The bill in question, if passed, would use tax dollars to pay for taking the life of a child in the womb through an abortion. There are strong indications that HB 40 could be enacted into law if we fail to act.
In addition to mandating state funding of abortion through the Medicaid program, HB 40 also calls for abortion coverage in state employees’ health care plans. It also allows for the use of tax dollars to fund grants to organizations that refer, counsel for and perform abortions, e.g., Planned Parenthood. All of these state-funded mandates are currently prohibited by Illinois law.
We have raised our voices in the past for those who have no voice, whether they be the immigrant or the refugee, the poor, or the unemployed. We now need to speak for the children in the womb, who are the weakest among us.
We need to let our elected officials know that taxpayers should not be forced to fund the taking of human life. In fact, tax money should be used to fund prenatal services for the poor and child care for working mothers, as well as expand health-care options for those in need. Please join me in advocating for all life by urging your state representative to reject HB 40 and work instead to pass a budget that funds all essential services.
The last abortion-related bill approved by the House only passed with 61 votes, all of whom were Democrats. One of those Democrats, Mike Smiddy, lost to a Republican last year.
The fiscal year 2018 budget also recommends the Historic Preservation Agency (HPA) merge with DNR to consolidate the administration of state historic sites and monuments within one agency. By positioning HPA administration within DNR, core competencies will be centralized. The merger, which includes $9.2 million in new appropriation authority for DNR, is anticipated to result in $3.2 million in savings and ensure the continued collection and preservation of state historic resources.
Rauner also outlined areas where he wants to increase state spending, including K-12 education, college grants for needy students and more investigators for the Department of Children and Family Services.
However, Rauner did not mention in his speech that his budget proposal would spend about $37.3 billion while state revenues are estimated at $32.7 billion. Rauner’s budget plan also counts on $4.6 billion under a category called “working together on ‘grand bargain,’ a bargain that is still being negotiated in the Senate. Rauner’s budget director Scott Harry nonetheless insisted Rauner had presented a balanced budget to the General Assembly.
Rauner’s budget proposal — deemed “balanced” by his budget director — is reliant upon on the Senate plan passing. Within the budget proposal is a mixture of spending cuts, revenue and projected economic growth to try to reach a magic number of nearly $4.6 billion. The governor is seeking to fill the remaining $2.7 billion plus by getting legislative authority to make cuts.
“His preferred option is to continue to work with the General Assembly,” state budget director Scott Harry said during a briefing with reporters.
The reliance on the plan — as well as lack of specifics in his budget address — had some Democrats launching attacks. Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza said Rauner has “shirked his constitutional duty.” And State Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills, said Rauner “shied away from the opportunity to lead.”
Despite repeatedly insisting to reporters that the proposed budget was “balanced,” Rauner’s budget chief, Scott Harry, did not offer much in the way of specifics as to how the governor would close the hole. Not contained in the 570-page budget book is any mention of ways to raise more money to avoid cuts.
Rather than detail additional cuts to close the gap, Rauner’s budget instead includes a $4.57 billion line-item titled “working together on ‘grand bargain.’” Harry said the governor’s “preferred path” out of the hole would be “a mixture” of more spending cuts, tax hikes to generate new revenue and policies to create more economic growth, which would lead to higher tax revenues.
That deep hole already assumes Rauner would be able to make $2.7 billion in other cuts he proposed in the state’s main checking account. One provision would shift state workers into a less expensive pension program by offering a 401k-style retirement plan as an alternative to the constitutionally protected, defined-benefit plan workers currently enjoy. Rauner’s team says the move would save $500 million. When asked how the administration had estimated the savings when participation in the new plan would be voluntary, Harry punted to another Rauner aide, who said only that “assumptions were made on what the choices would be.”
Also factored into Rauner’s proposed savings is $240 million he estimates would be generated from selling the state’s James R. Thompson Center building in the Loop, $340 million in savings from changes to the state’s procurement processes, $120 million in cuts to a program that allows people with disabilities to avoid institutionalization by receiving home-based care and a $500 million reduction in compensation for state workers.
I didn’t go to that budget presentation, but it sounds like it was similar to some recent White House press briefings.
* I subscribe to the governor’s campaign YouTube channel and just got an alert that this video was posted. I expect to receive a press release about it soon. Have a look…
Whatever it takes. Bruce Rauner’s plan to balance the budget reforms Illinois, builds a new economy, freezes property taxes, caps spending, pays down the debt and term limits politicians’ power. Learn more at BudgetAndReform.com.