Today, the Executive Forum meets on important Dept. of Labor regulations that could
change how services are delivered and a conversation with Director Fenton.
Tomorrow, I am back in Chicago for a hearing on Budgeting for Results.
Eric Zorn get this one right. Check out his data in this commentary. Its time!
Haul everybody to Springfield
Two numbers to consider as Illinois enters its fourth month without a budget
The first number is 16.4 million.
That’s roughly the number of dollars per day the state is falling into arrears simply
because lawmakers and the governor can’t agree on a taxing and spending plan for
the fiscal year that began in July.
The reason is that, due to an assortment of court orders and legislative patches
designed to ease the pain of the political stalemate, combined with the 25 percent
income tax cut that took effect Jan. 1, state government is now on target to spend
about $6 billion more than it will bring in. And $6 billion divided by 365 is about
The second number is three. That’s the combined number of days the legislature is
scheduled to meet between now and the end of the calendar year — two for the
House, one for the Senate.
The first number is even more troubling than it may appear. Because every day that
passes concentrates the problem faced by lawmakers, who will have to make up the
difference and balance the budget as the law requires by next July. Think of it this
way: If the General Assembly had passed and the governor had signed a fiscal year
2016 budget on Oct. 1, they’d have had to come up with a combination of new
spending cuts and tax hikes totaling about $22 million a day just to get caught up. By
Nov. 1, that number will be $25 million a day. By Jan. 1, nearly $33 million a day.
Every week that passes, the inevitable, necessary spending cuts get deeper and the
tax hikes get higher. Yet the second number — the paltry number of days the House
and Senate are now scheduled to be in session before Jan. 1 — is not particularly
troubling to many experienced, world-weary observers of the legislature.
The rank and file don’t do much anyway. The only negotiations that matter are done
by the governor and the legislative leaders.
A special session in which lawmakers are ordered back to Springfield and forced into
their respective chambers to hammer out a compromise resolution “would be a huge
waste of money and time,” Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan’s spokesman,
Steve Brown, said Tuesday.
A special session would “just cost more money,” said Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner,
dismissing the idea when talking to reporters in Effingham on Friday. “Let’s not have
a special session. Let’s just negotiate in good faith.”
Nice idea, but how’s it been working out? The legislative leaders and the governor
haven’t sat down together since May 29, according to the office of Senate President
John Cullerton. And since more than 90 percent of state spending is proceeding
without a budget agreement, public pressure has not yet forced serious negotiations,
capitulations or compromises.
Granted that special sessions are expensive — $50,000 a day for expenses is the
estimate offered by Republican leaders — and don’t have a great track record when
it comes to budget negotiations (former Gov. Rod Blagojevich merely underscored
his political impotence with numerous feckless demands for special sessions).
But, as noted, they’re a bargain compared with the $16.4 million a day this posturing
and inaction is costing us. And they just might work. Illinois law allows either the
governor or the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate together to call
a special legislative session, and I agree with the handful of lawmakers now
demanding they do so.
“Please call us back,” said Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, who is one of
them. “The state’s being trashed, our most vulnerable citizens are being hurt and we
need to do our job. We need a budget. Let’s vote on things. Let’s get this out of the
McSweeney, who reiterated his loyalty to Rauner’s agenda, proposes suspending
the rules against floor amendments in order to facilitate freewheeling debate and
“Every one of us was elected saying we wanted to do something, not sit around and
do nothing” said Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, another advocate for a special
session. “This is our chance. We need a mini-revolution. We need to stop following
our leaders blindly and solve this with independent action.”
If a special session wouldn’t break the logjam it would at least dramatize and lend
urgency to a story that, by dint of its depressing sameness day in and day out, has
fallen out of the headlines.
The numbers don’t lie. It’s time.
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Tony Paulauski Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423