More than three weeks into a new fiscal year, the budget stalemate has revealed stark differences in the way reform-minded Republicans and status-quo Democrats envision Illinois’ future.
Governor Bruce Rauner and Republican lawmakers are seeking a constitutional 12-month budget anchored on solid governmental and business reforms to improve the state’s economy, freeze property taxes, and implement term limits and take “politics” out of the process of drawing legislative boundaries.
Democrat leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives have settled for an unbalanced, one-month budget, and are advocating for a continuation of failed fiscal policies and unstable business practices that have left Illinois with the third-worst business climate, the second-highest property taxes, and the worst credit ratings of any state.
The Illinois Constitution requires the General Assembly to pass a balanced 12-month budget. In May, Democrat leaders pushed through a plan based on expected revenues of $32 billion and proposed spending of $36 billion. That budget has been vetoed by Governor Rauner, but Democrat lawmakers last week voted to override several of his vetoes, further complicating budget negotiations.
Both House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Cullerton have repeatedly said that their number-one issue is the budget deficit – not the economy or the taxpayers – and have resisted nearly every effort toward reform. It’s tough to take them at their word because they voted to pass a budget with a $4 billion deficit, and they have introduced no proposals to cut enough or raise taxes to cover the shortfall.
Need for compromise
House lawmakers returned to Springfield July 21 for hearings that Democrat legislative leaders said showed the perils of adopting Governor Rauner’s pro-business agenda. The Senate has its next session days scheduled for August 4 and 5.
The General Assembly’s Democrat leaders need to stop the public relations gimmicks like the Committee of the Whole political theater, and make more attempts at compromise. Governor Rauner has already offered to come more than halfway by scaling his policy agenda down from more than 40 items in his Turnaround Agenda to only a handful, and backing away from right-to-work legislation. He has also offered movement on tax reform to find additional revenues to help balance the budget.
Higher education subcommittee
On July 20, a Senate Higher Education Subcommittee discussed excessive compensatory practices and abuses that have been occurring within public post-secondary education.
The committee heard testimony from public universities and community colleges about their “normal” benefit packages, which include housing and vehicle allowances and, in some cases, exorbitant fringe benefits.
Such packages have allowed some administrators to make more than $250,000 as a base for their contracts. He has sponsored a series of bills to help rein in these practices in the wake of the recent scandal regarding the College of DuPage’s now-removed President Robert Brueder.
The abuses at the College of DuPage are now the subject of a federal investigation.
Audit Commission accepting applications for Auditor General post
The Legislative Audit Commission will be accepting applications through Aug. 19 from persons interested in appointment as State Auditor General.
The Auditor General is a constitutional officer charged with the audit of Illinois’ public funds. Currently, the Auditor General oversees a staff of 90 and administers a $30.7 million budget. State law requires that each state agency be audited at least biennially. The Auditor General also performs investigations, and efficiency, management or program audits at the direction of the Legislature or the Audit Commission.
Persons interested in the
appointment can get more information from the Legislative Audit Commission’s Web site.
Four companies close during 10-day period
A recent report by the Illinois Policy Institute states that in a 10-day period in July, four manufacturers announced that they will be shutting down their operations in Illinois.
According to the July 16 report by Michael Lucci:
“General Mills announced July 16 it will shut down a manufacturing plant in West Chicago, laying off 500 local food-manufacturing workers at the plant. One day earlier, Bunge North America announced 210 manufacturing jobs will disappear after the closure of its plant in Bradley, Illinois.
The General Mills news comes just two days after machine-maker DE-STA-CO announced it would move 100 jobs from Wheeling, Illinois to Nashville, Tennessee; and 10 days after an as-yet-unnamed company announced it will move 500 manufacturing jobs from the Chicago area to East Chicago, Indiana.”
The report states that jobs losses from just these four manufacturers total more than 1,300.
Bills signed into law
Governor Rauner took action on a number of bills during the week. A complete list is available on the Senate Action page of the Senate Republican Caucus Web site.