By Keith R. WheelerState Representative, 50th District
When I arrived in Springfield in January of 2015, we had a new Governor, a new class of Senators and Representatives, and a sense of optimism that we were about to turn Illinois around. I was ecstatic to begin enacting the reforms that the incoming class of legislators championed: a property tax freeze, meaningful job creation reforms and fair election maps. As a freshman legislator, I heard rumors that some Democrats in the House were planning to sabotage Governor Rauner by refusing to pass a single budget during his tenure.
The thinking behind that plan is that Illinois would be so drastically harmed during his first term that a second term would be unthinkable. It was dubious to me that anyone would consider that a legitimate plan for our state. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that elected officials who pledged to serve the people of Illinois would be willing to allow such catastrophic suffering in order to maintain their power.
Now in my third year of regular session, I am disgusted and disappointed to see this is indeed the course of action Speaker Madigan has chosen. While some point their finger at the Governor for the budget impasse, they should take a much closer look in Speaker Madigan’s direction. The General Assembly hasn’t passed a constitutional (balanced) budget since May of 2013. That was more than a year and a half before Governor Rauner even took office. Over the last 20 years, not a single budget proposal by any governor, Republican or Democrat, was passed by the General Assembly. However, every one of those budgets that became law have the Speaker’s fingerprints all over them.
To be abundantly clear, no governor can pass a budget. Only the General Assembly, the House and Senate together, can pass a budget. The governor can sign or veto (multiple options) the bills that make up the budget. However, he can’t just pass a budget. One must make it to his desk and then he can take action. The Speaker has prevented a constitutional budget (one that balances) from being passed since Governor Rauner took office. If Speaker Madigan really wanted a budget, a revenue estimate would have been adopted (step 1 in the budget process) by the end of March.
If Speaker Madigan really wanted a budget, all five House appropriations (budget) committees would have been in working groups throughout April and into May determining the figures that make up the budget based on the revenue estimate. If Speaker Madigan really wanted a budget, there would have been votes in some or all of the appropriations committees in May to bring a comprehensive, balanced budget to the Floor. If Speaker Madigan really wanted a budget, the House would have voted on a budget on or before the end of scheduled session: May 31st.
With the end of the fiscal year looming on June 30th, I am ready to go back to Springfield and work until we get a balanced state budget, just as I have been from day one. Families and taxpayers in Kane and Kendall Counties can count on me to keep fighting for property tax relief, school funding reform, and changes to the state’s anti-business/anti-jobs climate to make us more competitive with Indiana and Wisconsin. We cannot afford to wait any longer.