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Failed Overrides Might Teach Democrats a Lesson PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 06 September 2015 05:05

There was a reason why state Representative Esther Golar (D-Chicago) showed up late for session last Wednesday: She’s been quite ill.

Golar was brought into the Statehouse on Wednesday afternoon via wheelchair. With a weak and halting voice, Golar asked for assistance putting on a light jacket while chatting with a smattering of well-wishers before walking to her seat on the House floor.

She told friends that she hadn’t eaten solid food in three weeks, although she didn’t say what had made her so ill. In desperate need of intravenous fluid, Golar eventually had to be taken to a Springfield hospital.

Through it all, the six-term South Side legislator said she absolutely had to attend session because she knew it was important – not just to help override the governor’s veto of AFSCME’s now-infamous “no strike” bill, but to have her say on all the other overrides and important measures.

A whole lot of bills went down in flames last Wednesday because Representative Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) decided not to cut short his trip to New York and skipped the session. Numerous override motions failed by a single vote, as well as a bill designed to reverse the governor’s 90-percent cut to child-care services.

Both Parties Running Out the Clock with Illinois Finances PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 30 August 2015 11:09

The Illinois fiscal crisis is only going to get worse, and the solution is becoming more difficult by the day.

As you probably know, the General Assembly and the governor have not yet agreed on a full state budget. But because of various federal judicial orders, a signed education-funding bill, and several ongoing statutory “continuing appropriations” (debt service, pension payments, legislative salaries, etc.), the government is on pace to spend billions of dollars more than it will bring in this fiscal year.

Guesstimates have been tossed around by various folks that the state could run out of money by March or maybe April if no formal budget agreement is reached. That’s because all the judicial orders etc. are based on last fiscal year’s budget, but last year’s budget was based on revenue from a 5-percent income tax – which automatically fell to 3.75 percent in January.

Long term is grim, but so is the short term.

Veto Override Could Mean War – or a Way Out PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 23 August 2015 05:28

I think on August 19 a new and brief window of opportunity opened that might finally help wrap up this long and drawn-out state-legislative overtime session.

But that window will only be open for 15 calendar days – the time the state Constitution gives each legislative chamber to vote on a veto override.

Allow me to explain.

I spoke with some Rauner folks last week and, man, are they ever on the warpath about the Senate’s August 19 override of the governor’s veto of the AFSCME bill – legislation that would prevent a strike by or lockout of state workers and would instead require binding arbitration after an impasse is reached. The House has 15 days from that date to take its own action.

Even though AFSCME has never invoked its binding-arbitration power with state corrections officers (who cannot strike by law), the governor and his people clearly see this bill as an intrusion on executive-branch powers.

Chicago Mayor Will Likely Facilitate End of State Stalemate PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 16 August 2015 05:54

The absurd facade of this long-running state-government impasse might best be summed up with two brief statements.

(1) Governor Bruce Rauner to Democrats: Just support my plans to eviscerate organized labor and I’ll give you the rare privilege of voting to raise everybody’s income taxes.

(2) Democrats to Rauner: Just accept our piddly little workers’ compensation reforms and we’ll let you put all Republican legislators on an income-tax-hike bill, which you can then, of course, gleefully sign into law.

Those two statements bring to mind a long-ago description of the play Waiting for Godot. It was, the reviewer wrote, a play in which “nothing happens, twice.”

Ain’t that the truth. Neither of these things will ever happen.

I have heard some portray this standoff as something like a religious war, in which each side is so wedded to their own core belief structures – particularly when it comes to labor unions (Rauner against, Democrats for) – that all rapprochement is impossible.

But as hard-line as the summer has most certainly appeared, I am increasingly convinced that this overtime session isn’t quite as simple as either of those comparisons.

It’s Time for Illinois’ “Leaders” to Govern PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 09 August 2015 18:56

There are those who believe strongly that one side or the other is “winning” our latest and perhaps greatest Illinois Statehouse impasse.

I think it’s too early to judge, and frankly I think everyone is going to end up losing here anyway.

As you know, the governor has refused to negotiate a budget until the Democrats accede to his demands to essentially neuter the power of labor unions. The Democrats won’t ever sign on to his more radical proposals, including forbidding school teachers from negotiating their own salaries.

Many who think Governor Bruce Rauner is winning point to the fact that about 80 percent of the General Revenue Fund’s budget is being spent under court order or signed legislation.

State-employee wages and pensions, Medicaid-reliant hospitals in Cook County, part of the state child-care program, debt service, transfers to local governments, and human-service programs tied to federal consent decrees are all being funded. In addition, Rauner signed the K-12 budget, so schools are being paid on time.

In addition, the House is expected as I write this to pass legislation appropriating about $5 billion in federal pass-through money.

So Rauner has managed to avoid wearing the jacket for any devastating consequences of a state shutdown because there hasn’t really been a shutdown.

But there are plenty of crises to come.

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