Illinois’ budget standoff continues as the new fiscal year began July 1 without a state spending plan in place.
Democrat leaders have refused to compromise on desperately needed reforms and instead are pushing an unbalanced one-month budget through the Senate. Governor Bruce Rauner and legislative Republicans remain open to compromise and committed to passing a balanced, constitutional budget and job-creating, structural reforms needed to put Illinois back on track.
On June 30, the Senate convened another wasted Committee of the Whole to discuss reforms to Illinois’ workers’ compensation system. Reform proponents say they want to ensure the system is there to protect injured workers, while also reducing the cost burden on job creators. Illinois has the 7th highest workers’ compensation premiums in the nation, costs that deter business expansion and drive jobs away from Illinois.
Also during the week, a new proposal emerged at the Capitol that would freeze property taxes for two years for all units of local government except Chicago, and create a commission to propose a new funding formula for Illinois’ schools. Addressing these important issues are top priorities; however, I do not support the proposal in its current form.
Budget compromise remains elusive as new fiscal year begins
This is not the first time a new fiscal year began without a state budget in place. On July 1, 1991, the state faced a similar budget stalemate, which came to an end only when legislative leaders and Governor Jim Edgar worked together to reach a compromise.
This willingness to compromise, the Chicago Tribune noted in an editorial, is the biggest difference between 1991 and 2015, “… Rauner is the one who has been showing flexibility. He has revised, reduced his expectations for an agreement. The Democratic leaders have not.”
Facing the difficult task of running a state government without a budget, Governor Rauner reassured state employees during the week that they will be paid for their work, and said his Administration is doing everything possible to ensure essential services continue uninterrupted.
During a visit to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency June 30, Governor Rauner told state employees, “I want to make darn sure you guys are paid, you guys are paid on time, you don’t miss any payroll, and you’re paid 100 percent of your salary, not some lesser amount.”
Senate Democrats approve unbalanced one-month budget.
During the week, Senate Democrats approved a temporary, one-month budget that the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget cautioned is out of balance.
In a memo to the Governor, Tim Nuding, Director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, said, “…this bill marches the taxpayers of Illinois toward an unbalanced budget one month at a time.”
According to Nuding, the one-month budget represents little, if any, improvement over the state budget that passed the Legislature this spring. The Democrat lawmakers’ budget, which was nearly $4 billion out of balance, was vetoed last week.
While the Democrats’ one-month budget passed in the Senate, an identical measure introduced in the House of Representatives failed to receive the required votes, leaving the proposal’s future uncertain.
Governor says ‘no’ to legislative pay raises
Governor Rauner said “no” to cost-of-living pay increases for legislators during the week, issuing an amendatory veto on Senate Bill 1354.
The Governor noted that there is no room in the budget to increase salaries for legislators. In his veto message, the Governor stated, “A balanced budget requires shared sacrifice.”
According to Governor Rauner, “Budget implementation bills must give us the tools to implement a balanced and realistic budget, and this change is an important step in closing our budget deficit.”
Senate Bill 1354 will be returned to the Senate where the chamber can vote either to override the Governor’s veto or accept the changes, before sending it to the House.
Line-item veto eliminates certain projects in capital improvement legislation
The majority of a capital plan that will invest in Illinois’ public infrastructure was approved during the week by Governor Rauner; however, he also used his line-item veto authority to remove funding for several projects.
Governor Rauner’s message on his bill action focused largely on the benefit of continued investment in public infrastructure and its critical importance to economic development. Among the line-items vetoed by the Governor are earmarks for things like renovations to the Capitol building.
Explaining these line-item vetoes, the Governor said, “We must also ensure that our limited taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, and that we prioritize funds for critical deferred maintenance. In light of the General Assembly’s unbalanced budget and the need for additional savings, I am vetoing earmarks, including Capitol building renovations, in order to make those funds available for other priorities.”
The legislation will be implemented with the Governor’s changes unless the House chooses to vote to restore the vetoed funding.