We had an outstanding program on health care reform at our annual update.
While yesterday in the Capitol, nothing was done to resolve the budget tragedy
here in Illinois.
It is time for a responsible state budget to be passed. We need Republicans,
Democrats, the Legislative Leaders and the Governor to do their jobs and pass
a state budget!
Your legislators are in their local offices. Send them a message that, “It is time.”
Excellent commentary from Eric Zorn from today’s Chicago Tribune.
Rauner should fold ’em in high-stakes budget game
Illinois voters dealt Republican Bruce Rauner a mediocre political hand when
they elected him governor nearly a year ago.
He won 50.3 percent of the vote against an unpopular incumbent — not exactly a
mandate, especially considering how vague his campaign pledge to “shake up
Springfield” was. And at the same time, the Democrats held on to super-majority
control of both legislative chambers.
In contested House races — ones in which both major parties fielded a candidate
— the GOP won 51 percent to 49 percent. But in contested Senate races, the
Democrats won 53 percent to 47 percent.
To sum up, a very divided electorate installed a very divided government. Since
then, Rauner’s hand has gotten weaker.
He began aggressively pursuing pro-business, anti-union elements of his
“turnaround agenda,” and two months after his inauguration, an Ogden & Fry poll
put his approval rating at 39.6 percent. By June 20, a little more than five months
in, that rating had dropped to 35.7 percent.
The deadline for a new budget was July 1, but Rauner has refused to negotiate a
compromise spending and tax plan with Democratic leaders unless they first
agreed to curb collective bargaining rights for unionized public employees and
eliminate a prevailing wage requirement on public construction jobs.
The result has been a bitter standoff in which human service agencies are being
squeezed and yet the state is still spending itself an estimated $16.4 million
deeper in debt every single day.
An Ogden & Fry poll taken Oct. 10 found Rauner’s approval rating had fallen to
32.3 percent, and that only 42 percent of respondents approved of curbing
collective bargaining rights.
Then last Friday, State Journal-Register political writer Bernard Schoenburg
published an interview with former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, a generally well-
regarded moderate who campaigned for Rauner last year, in which Edgar said
he thought Rauner should shelve his other demands for now and hammer out a
budget with his (also unpopular) Democratic foes. “
You don’t hold the budget hostage to get” nonbudget reforms, Edgar said. The
protracted stalemate “has been very destabilizing for state government,” he said.
And “an unstable state government … is a detriment to economic growth.” He
added, “It’s a complete mess-up, what’s going on, and I think we need to end it.”
That same day, when reporters asked Republican Comptroller Leslie Munger for
her view of the anti-union portion of Rauner’s agenda, she said, “I don’t think it’s
productive. I think we’ve got to work together … to solve the problems in Illinois.”
On Monday, Munger clarified that she supports changes in workers’ compensation
and tort law as well as a property-tax freeze but thinks those can be done in
“ways that don’t impact unions at all.”
Also Monday, the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago released the results of a
survey of more than 500 human service agencies that serve state residents. It
showed that 84 percent have had to cut the number of clients they serve, 79
percent have cut programs and 22 percent have laid off staff — a summary that
doesn’t come as any surprise to those of us whose email inboxes are peppered
daily with messages of alarm from those who represented poor children, the
elderly and the disabled.
“I’m not picking sides or casting any blame,” said AT&T of Illinois President Paul
La Schiazza in a related news release. “However, to help people and families
in need — and the human service agencies that are struggling to support them
— Illinois needs a state budget resolution soon.”
Rauner has yet to “prepare and submit” a balanced budget proposal, as the
state constitution requires. The budget outline he released back in February
relied on $2.2 billion in future savings from a change in pension law that would
require a constitutional amendment to enact, and on $3.6 billion in spending
cuts that Democrats contend would violate the law or existing contracts.
Instead Rauner has harped on the Democrats for submitting appropriations
requests totaling some $3 billion to $4 billion more than anticipated revenue and
for refusing to use their supermajority to try to pass tax increases to pay for the
spending they want.
Just meeting in the middle on the spending dispute was always going to be hard
enough without the paralyzing complication of Rauner’s attacks on unions.
To preserve any chance of winning, in the future, he needs to throw in now, not
double down on what’s looking more and more like a losing hand. Put forth a
realistic budget, make the Democrats do the same and hammer out the
differences. Live to play another hand.
You can buy and promise your way into office, but you have to earn a reputation
for leadership — the ace card in any political deck.