By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – As the last week of the fiscal year ended, the question remained: Would Illinois’ right-wing governor push the state and its citizens off the ledge and into the fire?
On Friday, the House provided a positive sign – a 90-25, bipartisan vote on an omnibus appropriations amendment.
It wasn’t quite a full budget, signed and sealed, but it was still something of a surprise given the Capitol’s recent toxic atmosphere.
The final vote had yet to come as the week ended, but legislative sessions were continuing.
House Speaker Mike Madigan thanked Republicans and their leader in the House, Representative Jim Durkin, for joining forces with Democrats.
“I think it’s a good step forward – a step that we can build upon,” Madigan said. “There’s much work yet to be done. Therefore, the House will be in session tomorrow (Saturday).
“Momentarily, I will send a message to the bond rating agencies asking them to defer credit ratings on the state of Illinois until we have sufficient time. Next, I will be convening a meeting of the leaders, and I will convene a meeting of interested parties on the revenue bill. Let’s keep up the good work, and we’ll get the job done.”
A Republican representative, Steve Anderson of Geneva, won loud applause with his comments supporting the vote.
“I know today we’re going to do the right thing,” he said. “We’re going to save our state. We’re going to save our state together.”
A less positive development occurred on Friday when the minority leader in the Senate, Republican Christine Radogno, 64, of Oak Park, said she was resigning immediately from the Senate.
Radogno worked long and hard with Democratic Senate President John Cullerton to develop a “grand bargain” that could have been the basis for an amicable budget settlement. However, Governor Bruce Rauner scuttled the compromise package by ordering Republican senators to oppose it.
Republicans elected Senator Bill Brady of Bloomington to replace her for the remainder of the 100th General Assembly.
The website Politico published this commentary on Radogno’s departure:
“Is there a way to interpret the timing of Radogno’s resignation announcement, in the midst of a special session, as anything but the proverbial middle finger to Gov. Bruce Rauner? At a time when compromise is critical and Democrats are building a narrative that Rauner is ‘Gov. No,’ a well-respected, commonsense GOP negotiator announces she’s done with the road to nowhere.
“This is after it’s well known in Springfield that Radogno was pushed to the side in negotiations because she attempted to break the prolonged stalemate along with her Democratic counterpart, Senate President John Cullerton.
In her resignation statement, Radogno noticeably thanked Cullerton by name. There was no similar praise for Rauner.”
When the special, 10-day legislative session was called, Rauner made a short speech billed as a “call to unity,” although news reporters and the public were barred from hearing it unless they watched on Facebook.
“Failure to act is not an option,” Rauner said. “Failure to act may cause permanent damage to our state that will take years to overcome.”
Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) replied that Rauner was a little late in seeking unity.
“It’s as if Gov. Rip Van Winkle has awakened from a two-and-a-half-year nap to find the state he was supposed to manage is teetering on the brink of fiscal collapse,” said Manar.
“While I welcome Gov. Rauner’s input into how we can seal a state budget deal, I will remind him that he and Republican lawmakers are three weeks late in sauntering to the table. Luckily, they will find his balanced budget, with his requested reforms, awaiting approval in the House that already passed in the Senate.”
WORKERS DENIED MEDICAL CARE
House Democrats have been holding public hearings on the impact of the lack of a budget, including one June 15 with the House Higher Education Appropriation Committee. Among the speakers was Kim Archer, president of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Faculty Association, the newly formed faculty union.
She described faculty members being denied needed medical care because the state won’t pay its employees’ bills and how the lack of a budget will affect the future of the state.
“Pediatricians were the first to begin dropping state employees,” Archer said. “What does that mean for the health and life expectancy of the next generation? You can shake your head and think I’m exaggerating, but that’s awfully easy when your insurance works, when you and your family can see a doctor at all, much less without fear of financial ruin of the embarrassment of being turned away in the waiting room.
“The future of our state is in the young, but we’ve seen enrollments drop statewide, with faculty attrition very much on the rise. Our youth are much too savvy to settle for living in a state that refuses to honor the most basic social contracts with its citizens.”
HIGHWAY WORK COULD HALT
Illinois’ U.S. senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, warned that Illinois faces a massive loss of federal money for transportation projects if Rauner doesn’t sign a budget, possibly affecting 700 construction projects valued at $2.3 billion.
“Halting work on these projects would trigger the loss of an estimated 250,000 and millions in unnecessary costs to the state,” they said in a letter to Rauner and legislative leaders, calling it a “self-imposed recession.”
“Illinois is the only state in the nation operating without a budget,” they said. “With the state already owing a record $15 billion in unpaid bills, Illinois simply cannot afford the unnecessary costs and the further economic damage that a preventable transportation shutdown would produce.”