What’s Really Happening in Springfield?

I’ve been inundated with inquiries regarding the “inside” happenings of Springfield. Constituents have seen the news, press conferences, and the attack mailers circulating the state and while two sides initially engaged in a dialogue, it has devolved into one side yelling and the other side trying to have a conversation. Some of you reading this have questioned, why the Republicans keep voting “present” on the “Governor’s legislation.” Well, Democratic leadership continues to play games with the lives of our citizenry by creating a budget that is $4 billion over projected tax revenue. When the government doesn’t have the money, it means a tax increase on all of us. Governor Rauner and many Republicans across the state have refused to consider a tax hike without structural reform. This means Republicans refuse to vote for a tax increase until the Democrats will implement changes to our system that would drive Illinois back to more prosperous times. My friend, colleague, and House Minority Floor Leader, Representative Ron Sandack, recently wrote an incredibly succinct synopsis of the shenanigans in Springfield.

Rep. Sandack is excerpted below:

“Illinois’ voters elected a Republican Governor and a Democrat-controlled House and Senate. That means there are Democrats who voted for Bruce Rauner because they want the state’s fiscal crisis addressed once and for all. Divided, or I prefer shared, government is still very new in Illinois and there have definitely been some growing pains. Because the majority party has controlled the House, Senate and the Governor’s office for the last 12 years, there formerly was a noticeable lack of checks and balances. Democrat lawmakers could push their agenda through knowing former Governors Quinn and Blagojevich would likely sign it. Simply put, they’ve been used to getting their way. Now, the majority party must deal with a Republican Governor who has pledged to veto bills that keep Illinois on a bad financial path. This is not sitting well with House Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton.

Governor Rauner came to Springfield on January 12 ready to tackle important issues, and formed numerous bipartisan working groups which included Republicans and Democrats from both the House and Senate. He wanted these bipartisan and bicameral groups to negotiate and compromise until common ground could be found in several areas. Governor Rauner’s plan to turn things around in Illinois includes several reform initiatives that aim to reduce fraud, waste and abuse, and make Illinois a business-friendly state to increase job growth. The Governor also said he would entertain an increase in revenue, but only after some of his reform initiatives were approved by lawmakers. To that end, the following reform bills were filed in the House in May by Republicans:
HJRCA39: Term Limits; HJRCA40: Fair Maps; HB4223: Workers Compensation Reform; HB4224: Property Tax Freeze and Voter Empowerment for Local Collective Bargaining; HB4214: Allowing for Municipal Bankruptcy; and HB4222: Lawsuit (tort) Reform.

Speaker Madigan has said he does not think budget talks should be tied to non-budget issues, but the Governor is adamant that they be discussed together. Why? Because Illinoisans need only look back at the temporary tax hike of 2011 to see that simply pouring more money into the state’s coffers does nothing to fix the structural reforms that have driven the state into the ground. Budgeting without reforms means the status quo continues. The voters of Illinois sent a clear message in November that the status quo is no longer acceptable.

Governor Rauner and Republican lawmakers have shown [their] willingness to compromise. Empowerment Zones, or right to work zones, were an initial element of the Governor Rauner reform agenda, but he has since agreed to remove that item from the table for consideration. In fact, recently the Governor unilaterally removed other items from the table too. These compromises were met by Speaker Madigan with more digging in of his heels and a renewed refusal to budge.

Democrats ultimately walked away from the bipartisan working groups and said they are not interested in reforms. In fact, in spite of the Governor’s clear directive of reform before taxes, Speaker Madigan has held all six reform measures in the Rules Committee and has refused to bring them to the House floor for full consideration. By not allowing the reform bills to be heard, Speaker Madigan, by his own actions, took discussions of reform, and therefore new revenue too, off the table.

[Democrats created and passed a] budget with zero input from the Republicans and zero input from the Governor’s Office. Speaker Madigan said “no” to bipartisanship and “no” to reforms, but now he wants bipartisan votes on a tax increase that he knows will be incredibly unpopular. Without reforms, the Republicans are not going to support an increase in revenue. If the Democrats want to raise taxes, they have the supermajority votes in both chambers to make it happen.

With the normal session adjournment date of May 31 now passed, the Speaker is calling the Representatives back to Springfield one day each week. Are we being called down so we can negotiate a balanced budget prior to the end of the current fiscal year on June 30? No. Are we being called back to consider the reform bills that represent the Rauner plan to help fix our state? No. We are being called to Springfield for a series of show trials where the Speaker is making a mockery of the process, and is collecting sound bites and roll call votes for the next election cycle where he hopes to strengthen his super-majority. It truly has been Springfield at its absolute worst.

What you’re seeing on the House floor right now is insincere legislation, sponsored by Speaker Madigan’s leading allies and masked as “Rauner bills,” that are part of a plan to thumb their noses at bipartisanship and reform. Their bills are not just insincere; they are sham legislation meant to embarrass the Governor. As a House Republican Caucus we are not supporting the sham legislation that is being sponsored by the Democrats that Speaker Madigan controls. We are standing together and refusing to be bullied into maintaining a status quo that has all but destroyed our state.

At this point we have a spending plan of $36 billion, projected revenues of $32 billion, and a controlling party that has said no to spending discipline, no to job-creating reforms, no to fair maps/redistricting and no to term limits, while asking for bipartisan votes on a tax hike. In a negotiation, each side needs to give something up. Governor Rauner took several of his reform measures off the table; now let’s see the Democrats give something up. Republicans remain ready to negotiate, and hope the Democrats return to the table so we can engage in an honest discussion about compromise and get past this stalemate.

The citizens of Illinois voted for shared policy-making and lawmakers now need to work together to make that happen.”

Asking the people of Illinois for an additional $4 billion in tax dollars reminds me once again of a quote by Thomas Jefferson, “I predict happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815/232-0774 or email us at repstewart@gmail.com. You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.