Michael Madigan Battles Rauner
House Speaker Michael Madigan cut his Memorial DayHoliday weekend short and returned to the Capitol where he delivered a message to Gov. Bruce Rauner. ‘Democrats are going to pass a budget that’s at least $3 billion short, will keep working to find more money but reject attempts to link the Republican governor’s legislative agenda to a new spending plan.’
Madigan has set in motion Rauner’s a long summer in Springfield if he doesn’t get the pro-business changes he wants that also would curb the power of labor unions. This he wants to do in a union state. Unions were established to protect the people. Is he crazy? Holding a rare news conference to open the final scheduled week of spring session, Madigan said Rauner’s remarks were “not helpful to this process.”
In spite of the Republicans’ stance, House Democrats began advancing small budget portions Monday that set spending levels for higher education and public safety. They cut about $50 million less than last year universities and colleges, and set aside $1.9 billion. That $50 million went towards an increase for the corrections and police department budget set at $1.8 billion to cover higher payroll expenses and programs aimed at keeping nonviolent offenders out of prison.
The Senate is expected to continue their effort to move more pieces of the spending plan Tuesday. Lawmakers face a Sunday deadline to put a budget in place, or the threshold to pass legislation increases and Republican lawmakers get a seat at the table.
The Democratic budget push is to force Rauner to accept accountability for billions in budget cuts that would hit social service programs in the hopes that he’ll feel enough heat to eventually sign on to a tax increase in the months ahead. It’s a political gamble for Democrats because Rauner can easily use his powers to reduce certain spending, or veto the budget outright and blame Democrats for not making the tough decisions.
That would send both sides back to the bargaining table this summer, when Rauner could tap into more than $34 million in campaign cash he and his allies control to hammer home his message and put pressure on Democrats.
“If that happens, that happens,” Madigan said. “Speaking for myself, I’m here to discharge my duty and my obligation.”
Republican lawmakers countered that Democrats were skirting their responsibilities by intentionally passing a budget that isn’t balanced. They question the logic that Democrats could strike a deal with Rauner on taxes after refusing to negotiate on his agenda.
“Stop the facade,” said Republican Rep. Ron Sandack of Downers Grove as a House panel debated the public safety budget. “You’re looking to work with him after you pass this joke of a budget … this is an absolute atrocity.”
But Democratic Rep. Luis Arroyo of Chicago, the public safety appropriations chairman, argued there’s more to raising money than just hiking taxes, suggesting gambling might be an area ripe for compromise.
Lawmakers are weighing an expansion that would bring slot machines to horse racing tracks and create five new casinos, including one in Chicago that’s getting the heavy sell from Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Rauner has said he’s open to the idea, but hurdles remain.
The naysayers against the gambling casinos scramble the annual gambling push in opposition from existing casinos that argue they’ll take a hit and concerns surrounding the city’s insistence on owning its casino. There’s also a new bump in the road as some horse track owners complain that they won’t be happy with just slot machines because they want table games at their facilities.
“Obviously, we are getting a lot of people who want their hand in it right now. Surprise,” said Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan. “It’s a house of cards, if you pull one card out, everything goes tumbling. That’s what I’m trying to prevent.”