Local legislators believe the impasse in Springfield is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
At a Homewood-Flossmoor League of Women Voters program Sept. 9, Rep. Al Riley (D-Hazel Crest), Rep. Will Davis (D-East Hazel Crest) and Rep. Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights) offered insights into the issues confronting state government.
The state has been operating without a budget since the new fiscal year began July 1.
The ongoing budget fight in Springfield between Gov. Bruce Rauner and state legislators seems to be at a stalemate, according to the local legislators.
Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda calls for term limits on Illinois legislators, a property tax freeze that would be tied to giving communities the chance to drop prevailing wage requirements, change the method of how legislative districts are drawn, reform worker compensation costs, allow municipalities to file for bankruptcy and limit lawsuit awards.
Rauner presented his agenda to Southland leaders earlier this year but got no support, according to published reports.
Riley said the General Assembly, led by a Democratic majority, passed a budget in May, but Rauner rejected the fiscal document. The news media has confused the issue since then, he said.
“Where does the news stop and the entertainment begin? That’s problematic,” Riley said, adding that “the issue is revenue.”
The governor “wants to reduce state spending,” Davis told the audience. “Are we working from his budget or ours?” he wondered. “If you want to know how the governor feels about your services, look at his budget.”
Rauner has argued that his budget would cut wasteful spending in order to begin the process of reducing the state’s huge deficit, but Democrats counter that Rauner’s spending cuts hit the poorest residents and municipalities hardest.
DeLuca believes a compromise may mean giving Rauner one victory on his “turnaround agenda.” He thinks term limits for members of the Illinois House and Senate may be the bargaining chip.
“I think if we don’t give the governor a victory we’ll be on this road for a long time. I think we should give him term limits,” DeLuca said.
This proposal brought grumbles from the audience.
Davis said he didn’t like the term limits idea because “you lose institutional knowledge” by forcing elected officials out. Davis reminded League members: “There’s no term limit for lobbyists.”
And Riley argued the state’s strong history of support for labor unions means Illinois “is not going to become a ‘right to work state,’” another of the governor’s proposals. In states with right-to-work laws, workers are not required to join unions in order to get a job that is represented by a union, nor pay dues to unions that are negotiating work agreements.
The three legislators agreed that revenue is the biggest budget problem. Officials in Springfield know there needs to be an increase in revenue, they said.
Riley said the Illinois Supreme Court has already told the state it must continue paying on about 80 percent of its financial obligations. With 80 percent covered, Riley hopes the governor will get the hint that his attempts to rein in spending are very limited.
DeLuca told League members he would agree to an income tax increase arguing when Rauner says, “’We will only spend what we have,’ I view that as the worst possible scenario.”
Riley quoted numbers to show that Illinois’ income tax is one of the lowest in the Midwest.
People often confuse taxes, such as the property tax, as all being state taxes, he said. No property tax revenue goes to the state. Property taxes cover local expenses, such as schools and municipal services.
Davis believes closing corporate tax loopholes could bring in more state revenue. He added that area legislators are always looking for creative ways to encourage business development in the South Suburbs.