One State’s Struggle to Make Ends Meet: Why Illinois Is Without a Budget

27 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

8 ideas for you to help end the budget stalemate and find hope in Illinois.

Welcome to Clout Street: Morning Spin, our weekday feature to catch you up with what’s going on in government and politics from Chicago to Springfield.CHICAGO — Illinois, notorious for its debt and dysfunction, is poised to begin its fifth month without a state budget, the consequence of a long-simmering ideological and political dispute between Gov.

Bruce Rauner’s sagging poll numbers as a reason he ought to set aside, for now, the union-weakening portions of his agenda and just negotiate a budget with the Democrats. Thursday, another poll came out from Ogden & Fry showing a slight uptick in Rauner’s job approval rating — to 34.4 percent from 32.3 percent — but far worse approval ratings for Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan — 19.9 percent — and the entire Illinois General Assembly — 9.8 percent. Illinois is spending more money than it is taking in, said Leslie Munger, the state comptroller, who cautioned that the state would have about $8.5 billion in unpaid bills by the end of the year, partly because of the expiration of a temporary increase in income tax. The poll, commissioned by an arm of the conservative Illinois Policy Institute, shows a plurality of respondents saying they would have an unfavorable view of politicians who cut services or who raised taxes to balance the budget.

Rauner has tied passage of the budget to changes in workers’ compensation and collective bargaining rights for unionized public employees, measures that he says will help revive the Illinois economy and bring in much-needed revenue. Last week on Reboot Illinois, I wrote a column wondering, “Why aren’t all of us up in arms and screaming about our state?” It got more reaction than anything I’d written in some time. The Union League Club offered its downtown location as a venue, and a date was set for Nov. 18. “As you know, leaders meetings are held and conducted by the governor’s office,” Rauner wrote. “As such, while we appreciate the advocacy groups desire to be involved, we will pick up the organization of the meeting from here.” Rauner’s offer: A meeting in the governor’s office, in Springfield or Chicago, on the same date and time — Nov. 18, 9:30 a.m. Democrats oppose Rauner’s plan and argue it shouldn’t be tied to a new budget. (Kim Geiger) *Obama’s Chicago fundraisers: President Barack Obama, who hits Chicago on Tuesday for a speech to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, also will host a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a White House aide said. The fundraiser is a 3 p.m. “intimate discussion” with an ask of “a minimum $10,000” to benefit the DSCC, according to an invitation obtained by the Tribune.

Rauner defended himself: “I don’t spend any time criticizing my fellow Republicans,” he said. “I do not spend any time criticizing decisions made in the past that created the mess that we’re dealing with.” A. The event — dubbed a “special round-table discussion” — will be limited to 20 guests, according to the invite, which says the top annual contribution to the DSCC is $33,400 a year. Obama also is to attend a Tuesday fundraising dinner hosted by Robbie Robinson, managing director of BDT & Co., and his wife, D’Rita, founder and CEO of Chatty Guest.

Some nonprofits have not received money from the state since July 1 and say they have been forced to deplete their cash reserves and scale back services. Mark Mathews, the executive director of the Child Abuse Council in Moline, which provides counseling and visits homes of troubled families, said he had eliminated two staff positions and reduced one program’s caseload by 40 percent. “It’s definitely damaging the not-for-profit agencies,” he said. “We haven’t been serving as many families.

The City Council Finance Committee meeting today provides the last chance for aldermen to tweak Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed $7.8 billion 2016 spending plan before the final vote at Wednesday’s meeting. Some aldermen are expected to try to require ride-sharing service drivers, whom Emanuel wants to give pickup privileges at O’Hare and Midway airports and McCormick Place, to jump through more hoops and pay more fees to get those rights. The mayor’s changes also include a 15 percent fare hike for taxis as part of an overall plan to generate nearly $49 million more in taxes and fees from both industries. Other amendments offered up by members of the Progressive Reform Caucus aim to extend the city’s 9 percent amusement tax to tickets purchased for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera and horse-drawn carriage rides.

Still intact and expected to pass Wednesday: the record-setting $543 million property tax hike to increase police and fire pension fund contributions and a $9.50-per-month fee for city trash hauling at single-family homes, duplexes and four-flats. (Hal Dardick) *More backing: Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, D-Chicago, who flirted with the idea of running for state’s attorney next year, is endorsing lawyer Donna More in that race. More, a former state and federal prosecutor, plans to run against Anita Alvarez, who is seeking a third term, and former state prosecutor Kimberly Foxx, who is backed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “I am convinced that she is the only candidate in the race who has the vision, competence and independence to restore justice to the criminal justice system and to restore the public’s faith in the state’s attorney’s office,” Fritchey said. Last month, Jesse White, the secretary of state, said that his office was forced to cut costs by no longer sending out vehicle registration reminders in the mail, exposing millions of motorists to the annoyance and expense of potential late fees. He opposed her successful effort to increase the county sales tax by a penny-on-the-dollar starting Jan. 1. (Hal Dardick) *The Sunday Spin: Topics this week included the opposition to the Indepedent Maps push, a look at the city budget situation and a political strategist who wrote a book on Congress. Among them are measures to limit prevailing wages and cut down on eligibility for workers’ compensation, changes that the governor says are reasonable and will stimulate economic growth.

Money has continued to flow to much of the state’s most vital services, largely through appropriations and court orders: Public education spending of nearly $7 billion has already been approved, state workers are being paid, Department of Motor Vehicles offices and state parks are open and running. Financial experts say it will cost the state more money because of higher interest rates on borrowing, and makes its economic position more precarious. On Thursday, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded $26.8 billion in the state’s general obligation bonds, saying that Illinois’s financial obligations leave the state “more vulnerable to the next economic downturn.” A few days earlier, Fitch Ratings had downgraded Illinois’s credit rating for the first time since Mr.

It only takes a few hundred signatures to secure a ballot spot. “Lawmakers need to know people care and they’re angry and they want something done,” Yepsen said. “They need to know people understand there needs to be compromise and that we have to take the cure” of cuts and taxing services or retirement income above a certain amount, or all income at a higher rate. Rauner says that he is “very unhappy” that Illinois remains without a budget, and has publicly criticized Democrats for rejecting his proposals for term limits, redistricting overhauls and lower property taxes. Jim Edgar, a moderate Republican who served throughout most of the 1990s, said this month that the stalemate has been “destabilizing for state government,” and he accused Mr.

Cullerton, the president of the State Senate, said that the governor’s requirements for the budget would force Democrats to abandon their core principles as a party.

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