The Springfield legislative Override Session ended without much action and pushed the income tax extension, wages for direct support staff, minimum wage and possibly the State-Based Marketplace into the new legislative session which begins January 14th. Without a doubt, new revenue will be our greatest challenge with budget cuts of 20% or more looming without it.

We have a new Republican Governor and administration and a Senate and House with Democratic Super Majorities setting the stage for an extraordinary 2015 Legislative Session that will test our nerves. The Arc will be there to provide leadership and advocate for inclusive community supports in a disability system that continues to be one of the most institutional in the nation.

With that being said, the Ligas Consent Decree will continue to be implemented. Another 500 adults with intellectual and other developmental disabilities (IDD) will move off the PUNS waiting list. Individuals in Intermediate Care Facilities for IDD will continue to move into community living options of their choice. The rebalancing of the Developmental Disability System must continue. This is nothing new and The Arc and other advocacy organizations have been advocating for rebalancing the system for decades. Community living is a civil right. As an Employment First state and with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act signed into law by President Obama, we will see greater emphasis on employment and moving away from traditional day services. These will be reinforced by the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid new rules on community-based services which will also require changes in community living options here in Illinois.

Illinois has its work cut out in the Disability System. Let’s hope policy makers understand there are significant pressures beyond the budget that our state is faced with in the Disability System.


Madigan pushes big issues to 2015
House adjourns; taxes, minimum wage fall to Rauner


Speaker Madigan

In gaveling an end to the session Wednesday, House Speaker Michael Madigan ensured plenty of opportunities for the Democratic-led legislature to spar with Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner next year.

Lawmakers did nothing to extend the 2011 income tax hike, which means Illinois residents will get a big tax cut come Jan. 1, when the personal rate rolls back from 5 percent to 3.75 percent, even as state finances will take a $4 billion-a-year hit.

A statewide minimum wage increase fell flat in the House. Senate Democrats passed their own version of a wage hike, and departing Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn said “it isn’t over” and indicated he would use his fading power to ask House lawmakers to reconvene and urge them to pass it. A Madigan aide said a special session would be futile.

Meanwhile, the state left an estimated $270 million in federal funding for health care on the table by failing to set up a state-based Obamacare exchange.

On the surface, it would appear Madigan followed Rauner’s request that the post-election legislature do nothing substantive before the new governor is inaugurated Jan. 12 and a new General Assembly is sworn in two days later.

But Madigan’s move to send the House home could set the stage for several battles, with the minimum wage issue perhaps the first major contest between the Democratic legislature and the new Republican governor.

“This session is no different than others. There have been successes and then a lack of success,” Madigan noted after members said their farewells to departing lawmakers. “Many of us will come back, address the same issues with the same problems and doing that with the same amount of energy and dedication.”

And in a cautionary note, Madigan warned, “For those who are returning, get good rest over the holidays and be ready for hard work come January.”

While the House’s departure effectively ended the 98th General Assembly, the state Senate planned to remain in session through Thursday to deal with some low-key matters.

Madigan had given up on the minimum wage, an issue that got caught between a confluence of interests, including opposition from business groups, and confusion sowed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s successful push this week for a Chicago-only wage hike to $13 an hour by 2019.

After the House adjourned, Senate Democrats led the 39-18 passage of a measure sponsored by state Sen. Kimberly Light-ford, D-Maywood, that would boost the state’s $8.25-an-hour wage rate to $11 an hour by 2019. The bill also would block any post-2019 boosts in the city rate that had been tied to inflation.

“I know for sure that our governor is looking to call a special session for the House to return and take up the measure,” Lightford said. “And I’m hoping that 39 (Senate) votes will signal to the House that actually voting for a minimum wage and passing it is the right thing to do.”

Quinn, though, stopped short of saying he would call lawmakers back into special session.

“My plan is to work as hard as I can over the next weeks to get the minimum wage increased statewide,” Quinn told the Tribune. “We’re going to labor night and day until we get the bill on my desk so I can sign it into law.”

But Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said Quinn’s staff had told House Democratic staff that the governor would not call lawmakers back for a special session. Even if that changes, Brown said there isn’t enough support in the House for the measure that cleared the Senate.

“We couldn’t find support for $10 (an hour), so nothing is improved from the ability to get votes in the House,” Brown said.

Such an outcome could make the minimum wage issue a major test between Madigan and Rauner next year.

Rauner has said he backs a minimum wage increase coupled with unspecified pro-business changes in workers’ compensation, lawsuit damage awards and corporate taxes — all items unlikely to get traction among Democratic lawmakers.

Some legislators, including Republicans, have said privately that a Rauner veto of an unconditional minimum wage increase, backed overwhelmingly by voters in November, would not be a good starting point for the untested novice governor.

“I think there still is a big appetite for increasing the minimum wage,” Madigan’s top deputy, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said of the next legislative session. “How exactly we get from that to a bill is the difficult question.”

Given Rauner’s demands on the minimum wage, Currie acknowledged “it probably does” make it more difficult to advance the issue.

As promised by Democratic leaders, no action was taken to end the scheduled phasing out of the income tax hike passed by Democrats and signed by Quinn four years ago.

Rauner, who favors a complete rollback of the income tax hike to a 3 percent personal rate, has warned that the state is in worse financial shape than he believed during his successful campaign.

But the incoming Republican has offered no specifics to address the financial situation after promising in his campaign to increase funding for education, public works and natural resources. Instead, Rauner said, “We’ve begun a process to communicate” to voters how bad off the state is as he promised to seek “bipartisan” solutions in working with a legislature he vilified as “corrupt” during his campaign.

Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno said she welcomed a bipartisan approach in tackling Springfield issues when Rauner takes over next month.

“It’s really important that all parties be at the table,” said Radogno, of Lemont. “And that includes big things like school funding, minimum wage, reviewing the tax code. Those are issues that need to have real bipartisan input.”

Lawmakers also did not act on setting up a state health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act. With federal subsidies for insurance facing a federal court challenge, a health care exchange would have guaranteed the subsidy payments. The state faced a Dec. 31 deadline to act and would have gotten about $270 million in federal money. Right now, the insurance exchange is operated as part of the federal Obamacare program.

With potential costs to the state a major concern for operating the exchange, Currie acknowledged that the measure “didn’t have the breadth of support we needed.” She expressed hope the federal government would extend the deadline, but it is questionable whether Rauner would want to engage in such a program amid the state’s financial problems.

Pearson reported from    Chicago.

Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423
815-464-1832 (OFFICE)
815-464-1832 (CELL)