Thursday, December 1, 2016

Alliance Report preview

NO SURPRISE: DEADLOCKED BUDGET 

It looks like no deal on a budget. Though Governor Bruce Rauner and legislative leaders met daily this week, no agreement has been reached on either another stop-gap budget or a more permanent “grand compromise” budget. Although the education budget adopted in June was for the entire fiscal year, the budget for most state services is set to expire on Dec. 31.

House Speaker Michael Madigan continues to insist that an agreement be made on the budget alone, no reforms included. The governor persists in maintaining that no budget, at least a budget with revenue enhancements, will be signed without some reforms that will help the state grow the economy in future years and help middle-class taxpayers. At a minimum, the governor wants to include provisions for term limits on state legislators and a property tax freeze.

FUTURE TAX VOTES

Members of the House of Representatives went as far as going on record to say that they do not think a “lame-duck” legislature should be allowed to easily raise income tax rates. Historically, big-ticket items and “hard votes” would be addressed in the few legislative days between a General Election and the day the election winners are sworn into office (second Wednesday of January). With no election accountability for those legislators who lost (or did not run for) their seat; these “lame ducks” would have more latitude to vote yes on the hard questions, such as an increase in the income tax rate.

Currently, it takes a 3/5 vote for any bill that has an immediate effective date (like a tax increase) from June 1 until the end of the year. Starting January 1, the requirement for adoption goes back to a simple majority. That is why the “lame duck” sessions are held in January.

But this week, HJRCA 62 (Franks, D-Woodstock) was approved to amend the State Constitution to require a 3/5 vote until new legislators are sworn in. The resolution passed Thursday, Dec. 1 on a vote of 84-18-2, but still requires a vote in the Senate.

CHICAGO TEACHERS PENSIONS

When the education appropriations bill was approved in June there may – or may have not – been a deal between Governor Rauner and Chicago Democrats on appropriating funds to help Chicago Public Schools make payments to its teachers’ pension fund. In SB 2822 (Cullerton, D-Chicago), $215 million was appropriated for the CPS teachers’ pension fund. The governor says it was contingent on the legislature approving pension reform legislation before the end of the year; Senate President John Cullerton says there was no such deal.

The bottom line is that the governor vetoed SB 2822 today, firing a giant hole in the CPS budget. The Cullerton-led Senate promptly voted to override the veto. It is still unknown when/if the House will act on the override.

THE USUAL FLURRY OF LAST-MINUTE ACTION

As usual, bills and ideas that have sat idle for the past year suddenly needed urgent attention. Bills designed to allow two nuclear power plants to remain open, appropriate funds for the Chicago Public Schools teacher pension fund, and test for lead in school drinking water have all been under consideration in the Capitol.