Budget is long past due

Budget is long past due

Most people are sick of the protracted political struggle between Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, and Speaker Michael Madigan, a Democrat, are again communicating. But it's not clear if they're talking to each other or past each other.

However one interprets it, they've already failed the people of Illinois once and stand on the precipice of doing it a second time.

Even their talk of compromise is really a temporary truce — in effect, they are deciding not to decide.

The people of Illinois will know more about that in the next day or so. The Legislature will resume work today on the budget, not a permanent budget but a temporary, stopgap budget.

Here's where things stand. There is no budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year that ends Thursday and no budget for the 2016-17 budget fiscal year that begins Friday.

Even their talk of a stopgap budget is marred by disagreement on K-12 school funding.

Gov. Rauner said he is backing two bills — "a stopgap funding measure to ensure our most critical government services continue being funded and a school funding bill that puts more money into education, holds all schools harmless and ensures they open on time in the fall."

Rauner's school proposal has the advantage of taking public-school closings off the table. He has proposed an additional $200 million in school appropriations to assure that no school district receives less state aid than it did last year.

At the same time, however, Democrats are pushing for an additional $750 million to $760 million in school funding — $386 million destined for Chicago schools, with the remainder to be spread among the state's other roughly 800 districts.

Madigan's proposal, obviously, leans heavily in Chicago's favor, to the point that Rauner has described it as a "bailout" of Chicago's effectively bankrupt — both financially and educationally — schools and promised a veto.

As to Rauner's stopgap measure for the rest of the budget, he said it will "serve as a bridge to a comprehensive balanced budget for fiscal year 2017" and "does not count on enactment of a tax hike or reforms."

In addition to K-12 funding, Rauner's plan provides a full year of funding for road construction, federal programs and other non-general revenue fund programs. It also provides funding to support six months of critical operations that include higher education and state-operated facilities including prisons and social services.

Rauner said bipartisan working groups of Democrats and Republicans have essentially agreed on everything but the school funding issue. For fiscal year 2017 operations, the total package is $50.3 billion. This includes $8.2 billion in general funds, $33.7 billion in other state funds and $8.4 billion in federal funds.

Differences over school spending aside, the stopgap measures have the benefit of avoiding — for the time being — more bitter fallout from the budget standoff. Construction work on roads would continue uninterrupted, universities would receive desperately needed appropriations and social services would be spared further financial trauma.

But it still represents a respite from, not a settlement of, the bitter struggle between Madigan and Rauner.

Madigan desperately wants tax increases to maintain the political status quo, while Rauner insists Illinois must change if it's ever to lift itself out of the muck of undeniable government failure.

Most Illinoisans have certainly had enough of the status quo — they're desperate for a better way to do the public's business.

It has long been our view that just raising taxes is insufficient to right the ship of state. If it was, the dramatic 67 percent state income tax increase of 2011 would have saved the day.

But that tax hike — Madigan's solution then as it is now — solved nothing. That's why it's our view that  Rauner would be making a mistake by acceding to Madigan's tax hike proposal without gaining needed reforms in exchange. He has proposed changes to the state's workers' compensation plan, offered to back Democratic Senate President John Cullerton's pension reform legislation and asked that local governments be given more flexibility in negotiating with unions to control costs.

Those changes could help make a positive difference in restoring Illinois' weak economy to good health.

It would be easy now for Rauner to simply throw up his hands and cave in to Madigan's demands. The Chicago Democrat is tough as nails in the pursuit of his political goals.

But it would solve nothing. Rauner didn't run for governor to preside over Illinois' continuing decline. That's why this battle — obnoxious and unpalatable though it is — will likely resume when the truce expires after the November election.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion

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Joe Melugins wrote on June 29, 2016 at 8:06 am

Governor Rauner nor the News Gazette have ever offered any figures on exactly how much Rauner's non-bugetary turnaround agenda will aid Illinois' budget problems.  Until Rauner or the News Gazette can provide such verifiable figures, Rauner's turnaround agenda is all idle speculation.  Rauner's turnaround agenda's ultimate goal is to bust unions, and aid the wealthy. 

ratiocination wrote on June 29, 2016 at 9:06 am

Today about a dozen Illinois newspapers coordinated on front-page editorials that call for an end to the stand-off. Not the News-Gazette, which continues to support a far-right governor whose term in office has done catastrophic damage to the University of Illinois and the Champaign-Urbana community.

Worst newspaper in the state.

http://capitolfax.com/2016/06/29/a-little-late/

JohnnyPD wrote on June 29, 2016 at 9:06 am

What a load of baloney. First of all, the 2011 tax hike reduced our backlog of bills from $8 billion to $4 billion and helped us make timely pension payments. Now our backlog of bills has exploded and we aren't making timely pension payments. Sounds like a far cry from "solved nothing." 

The statement "Madigan desperately wants tax increases to maintain the political status quo" is completely nonsensical. What does it even mean? The status quo is and has been an exploding backlog of bills and mounting pension obligations. If there's a plan to balance the budget and pay down the debt while making timely pension payments, nobody in the brain trust has bothered to show us lowly peon voters. 

Since the governor doesn't seem capable of answering this question, perhaps the news-gazette can help him carry his water, since they're doing such a nice job here. What are the benefits of enacting his Turnaround Agenda demands? How does it help us? By how much? What are the material impacts? Are they worth adding $33 million in debt per day? 

JohnnyPD wrote on June 29, 2016 at 9:06 am

What a load of baloney. First of all, the 2011 tax hike reduced our backlog of bills from $8 billion to $4 billion and helped us make timely pension payments. Now our backlog of bills has exploded and we aren't making timely pension payments. Sounds like a far cry from "solved nothing." 

The statement "Madigan desperately wants tax increases to maintain the political status quo" is completely nonsensical. What does it even mean? The status quo is and has been an exploding backlog of bills and mounting pension obligations. If there's a plan to balance the budget and pay down the debt while making timely pension payments, nobody in the brain trust has bothered to show us lowly peon voters. 

Since the governor doesn't seem capable of answering this question, perhaps the news-gazette can help him carry his water, since they're doing such a nice job here. What are the benefits of enacting his Turnaround Agenda demands? How does it help us? By how much? What are the material impacts? Are they worth adding $33 million in debt per day? 

Justin_Observer wrote on June 29, 2016 at 11:06 am

From this (obviously ghost-written) editorial:  “Rauner didn't run for governor to preside over Illinois' continuing decline.”

Says who?  Of course, he did.  Rauner even stated this publicly.  He admitted his true motives, back in 2014.  (Of course, Rauner then shut up about his true motives once the primary began.)  Rauner stated in April of 2014 that his plan was that he would “fire public employees” and “potentially shut down the government" and “shut things down.”  His words.

This is exactly why he ran.  It's not a bug.  It is a feature.  He does not want a real, balanced budget.  Never has.

This editorial above was good for a giggle, though.  Complete propaganda, utter nonsense, but good for a giggle.  Bruce Rauner’s staff writings are often good for a giggle.

Only, the people of this state, are no longer laughing.

Sigh.

nschne393 wrote on June 29, 2016 at 11:06 am

What should be cut then?   U of I funding?   Funding for EIU?   Social service programs?  It is going to take both cuts and revenue increases to solve the issue.  Creative thinking not just the same old "67% tax increase" bumper sticker to draw attention.  It was from 3% to 5%, lower than the top tax rate than our neighbors to the south, west, and north.   Rather than continually blame "Chicago", find a solution to our problems.  We'd be a better state for it but instead you look toward that great commoner who became Governor, Bruce Rauner to able to solve the problems by supporting issues that will never pass the Assembly.

billbtri5 wrote on June 29, 2016 at 12:06 pm

i'm sick and tired of elected officals who think that spending more that the State takes in is a normal thing to do and keep doing year after year...at the same time ignoring the huge deficit in the Worker's Pension Fund, also created by some still "serving"...

wake up, Illinois does not have a printing press...

 

pattsi wrote on June 29, 2016 at 6:06 pm

This resource, Center for Budget and Tax Accountability, has been posted/mentioned by many plus Ralph Martire, executive director, has given two talks in this community. Yet conversations related to budget are spinning wheels without grabbing on to a very concrete suggested change. This is a wonderful resource.

http://www.ctbaonline.org/

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