Capitol Fax | It's long past time to put together a 'good budget'

Capitol Fax | It's long past time to put together a 'good budget'

By RICH MILLER

"Nothing's more important for a governor than having a good budget, because that allows you to manage the state to do your job."

Let that recent quote from former Gov. Jim Edgar as reported by the State Journal-Register sink in for a bit.

"Nothing's more important for a governor than having a good budget because that allows you to manage the state to do your job."

The budget passed last year over Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto was not a "good budget" because the governor's budget office wasn't directly involved. Legislators simply don't have the expertise to pass a good budget without the governor's help. The executive branch has experts who know what the agencies and programs need because they are involved with this issue every day.

And so the governor and his administration have been struggling ever since last July to implement a budget that it had almost nothing to do with. That's insane. No one who is truly interested in governing would let that happen.

Whether the governor believes he will be re-elected or not, it's his job to get something done for the future of his state. And the very least he can do is provide some stability going forward by finally doing what every governor before him has done: Negotiate and sign a workable budget.

I mean, seriously, we always make such a big deal out of state budgets, but this is a routine, mundane matter almost everywhere else.

House Speaker Michael Madigan told his caucus last week that he believes the governor wants an overtime session so he can blame the resulting gridlock on the Democrats. But Madigan told his House Democrats that he believes voters will blame both sides. This was taken by some of his members as a sign that Madigan finally realizes he needs to get something done one way or another. We'll see. That assessment could be overly optimistic.

The budgeteers met via teleconference last week and not a word was said about the governor's repeated demands for an "official" revenue estimate. Instead, they reportedly had a fairly productive discussion about various pension ideas. So, that's a good sign. The revenue estimate demand was a giant red herring used for political and disruptive purposes.

The Democrats appear to have gamed out the end of the spring session if they can't do a deal with the governor for whatever reason.

Money for the Quincy veterans' home and cash-strapped prisons, universities, etc., will all be put into the appropriations bills to entice Republicans onto the legislation. Some of the Republicans who broke ranks last year may not vote for the legislation when it passes, but may vote for it during the override motion.

Some Republican top dogs have said privately that they believe rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans who voted for the vetoed budget last year feel betrayed because they were told that the budget they passed was balanced when it actually wasn't. But in talking to those folks, that doesn't appear to be the case. Many knew what they were getting into and, besides, what's done is done and they want another budget now. Plus, some disaffected House Republicans are itching for one last fight with Rauner before they retire.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin has painstakingly put his caucus back together twice in the past year. The first time was after the budget override vote, which badly split his caucus. Members were essentially told if they voted for the education funding reform bill, all would be forgiven. And then another blow-up was threatened after Rep. Jeanne Ives nearly defeated Gov. Rauner in the GOP primary. Durkin has managed to keep things mostly cool and separated from caucus business since then.

It's abundantly clear from his public and private remarks that Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady wants a negotiated budget deal. Durkin, meanwhile, has solidly allied himself with the governor, both in public and reportedly during the leaders' meetings.

Durkin badly needs Rauner's money to fund his campaigns against Speaker Madigan this fall. But this alliance can also help move things along if Rauner's staunch ally Durkin eventually informs the governor that he needs to cut a deal for the good of the state or face yet another defeat. That worked last year on the education funding reform bill.

Whatever happens, it's long past time that the governor do whatever he can to put together a "good budget" for his state.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

Sections (2):Columns, Opinion
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