By CARL GREEN
Belleville, IL – Illinois House Democrats did not vote on a balanced budget in the legislative session that just ended because Governor Bruce Rauner had already promised to veto it, Representative Jay Hoffman said in a meeting June 7 with the press and the public.
Hoffman (D-Swansea) held the event, along with Representative LaToya Greenwood (D-East Louis), to call on Rauner to enter negotiations with legislators to build a compromise deal before the next fiscal year begins July 31.
Hoffman, one of the House budget negotiators, was asked why the House did not pass a budget plan for Rauner’s consideration before adjourning at the end of May. He cited Rauner’s insistence on non-budgetary measures as a prerequisite for budget negotiations.
“The governor had already indicated that if he didn’t get these anti-working family, non-budgetary items, he was going to veto the budget,” Hoffman said. “We as Democrats don’t have a veto-proof majority, and none of the Republicans would have joined us.”
The non-budgetary items included Rauner’s demands for a long-term property tax freeze, reductions to workers’ compensation and ending collective bargaining for public employees.
“Sending something to the governor – when he had already indicated he intended to veto it and not even talk about it, and not negotiate with us on the non-budgetary items or the budget itself – would have been really fruitless,” Hoffman said.
After months of negotiation, the Senate did pass budget legislation, but it arrived in the House only a couple of days before adjournment. Hoffman said there were concerns in the House that the Senate plan didn’t go far enough in paying down the state’s overdue bills, which were estimated at $14.9 billion.
“We’re willing to take the tough votes,” he said. “The governor has indicated it will take a combination of cuts and revenue (increases) in order to solve this unprecedented problem. But you have to negotiate. You have to work together.”
Democrats would be willing to discuss the non-budgetary items and have passed bills on some of them, such as a two-year property tax rate that Rauner derided as not long enough. Another such bill would make substantial revisions in workers’ compensation.
“We should be talking about the budget, but if he’s going to demand that we have these non-budgetary, anti-middle class items discussed, we’re willing to meet as long as it takes in order to negotiate,” Hoffman said.
PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING
Greenwood and representatives from several service agencies appeared with Hoffman in front of the St. Clair County Courthouse to describe how the two-year lack of a budget has placed enormous pressure on the agencies and their clients.
“Our local communities are suffering because of the lack of a budget, but Governor Rauner continues to hold our state hostage while he pushes an agenda that serves the interests of big corporations,” Greenwood said.
“Meanwhile, social service providers can’t provide services to our most vulnerable. Schools may not be able to open this fall, and working families continue to struggle to make ends meet.”
Michelle Cates, director of the Sexual Assault Victims’ Care Unit at Call for Help, said the staff there has already been spread thin despite much demand for their services.
“We keep hearing media, politicians and community members say that this is now our new normal,” she said. “We can’t allow this to be our new normal – we just can’t.
“Our community and our survivors deserve the services that we provide.
“They do not deserve this constant state of unknown.”