Speaker Madigan puts politics over people
Madigan’s record $40 billion spending proposal and its $7 billion deficit revealed he was never serious about reaching a budget deal with Rauner. Instead it was nothing more than an attempt to create a deeper fiscal crisis, force additional tax hikes and create a bailout for the city of Chicago. As long as Madigan and other lawmakers keep prioritizing politics over people, Illinois will continue its downward spiral.
Fresh off his failure to pass a budget plan with a $7 billion deficit that had no hope of becoming law, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan has canceled special legislative sessions two weeks in a row.
Because of that decision, legislators aren’t at the Statehouse working on a compromise, even though the state has no budget. Illinoisans will continue to feel the pain of their dysfunctional government – and that pain is all due to the political games lawmakers are playing in Springfield. Instead of finding solutions, Madigan and his cohorts continue to put politics over people.
That means social-service providers will continue to go unfunded. Public universities will cut grants to low-income students. And school officials are wondering if they’ll have funding for next fall.
Illinois legislators ended their regular session on May 31, and have yet to return to the Capitol. With regular session over, no budget plan can pass without support from a supermajority of lawmakers. That’s provided leaders with an excuse for their inaction.
Senate President John Cullerton, not wanting to expose his members to tough votes, has said that lawmakers won’t act on a balanced budget until after the November election.
Madigan’s cancellations and Cullerton’s excuses show they were never interested in compromise. If they were, the General Assembly would be meeting and tough votes would be a possibility.
Instead, the legislative leaders are far more interested in positioning for the upcoming election than in finding real solutions, even as their actions harm taxpayers and the needy.
Lawmakers’ only option now is a stopgap budget because Madigan’s plan, presented at the last minute, was too toxic. Not just for Gov. Bruce Rauner, but for Democrats, too.
Madigan’s toxic spending plan
Madigan’s record $40 billion spending proposal and its $7 billion deficit revealed he was never serious about reaching a budget deal with Rauner. Instead it was nothing more than an attempt to create a deeper fiscal crisis, force additional tax hikes and create a bailout for the city of Chicago.
That bill, and its resulting chaos, was an infuriating, but typical, example of Illinois politics at its worst. Madigan introduced the 500-page bill in the House late in the afternoon May 25, and politicians voted in favor of the plan less than three hours later.
Things didn’t go so smoothly in the Senate. Angry that they were shut out of drafting the proposal, the Senate ended up rebelling against Madigan’s spending plan by voting it down 17-31.
So what was in Madigan’s budget?
That $40 billion also came with a record deficit – the plan spent $7 billion more than what the state is projected to get in 2016 tax revenues, and would have forced billions in additional tax hikes.
Worse, Madigan’s spending plan wasn’t even a real budget. Just a third of the total plan contained actual appropriations, meaning an overwhelming amount of the spending plan was made up of continuing appropriations, court orders and consent decrees. The way the plan was presented tied Rauner’s hands: Because so little of the plan included actual appropriations, there wasn’t much Rauner could line-item veto.
Madigan’s plan also included a massive subsidy for Chicago. Rather than demand the corrupt and inefficient school system reform itself after decades of financial failure, the plan granted a $400 million bailout to Chicago Public Schools – with no strings attached.
Madigan’s apparent goal was to force Rauner to veto an unbalanced, unrealistic budget for a second year in a row and then use that against him in the legislative elections in November. Thanks to the Senate, that didn’t happen.
Regardless, Madigan’s plan was just another page from the playbook he’s been using for the last 15 years.
Illinois hasn’t had a balanced budget since 2001. And like unbalanced budgets from recent years past, Madigan’s 2016 plan one contained no financial reforms – just more spending and deficits.
More importantly, the plan signaled a profound lack of respect for Illinois taxpayers and the needy who rely on Illinois’ core services. Madigan still hasn’t changed his real spending priority: funding for state worker pay and benefits at the expense of everything else.
As a result of Madigan and other lawmakers games, thousands of social-service agencies will remain unpaid, schools may be forced to shut their doors and taxpayers will have the specter of a massive tax increase hanging over them.
The House speaker can’t continue to ignore what everyone in the state is suffering under: the nation’s third-worst business climate, a shrinking population, the nation’s highest unemployment rate, collapsing manufacturing and the nation’s highest property taxes.
The simple fact is this: As long as Madigan and other lawmakers keep prioritizing politics over people, Illinois will continue its downward spiral.