Sometimes, the General Assembly doesn’t appear to make sense.
For three years running, more people have fled Illinois than any other state. Our tax burden on middle class families is today the highest of any state in the country, according to Wallethub.com. State government is spending $20 million per day more than the taxes coming in, and Illinois is now two years without a budget.
Legislators in other states would consider that an emergency, calling for serious sustained action. But not in the Illinois House, where the pace of work this term has been leisurely. During the five months of Spring Session, we had more than enough time to debate every single line item of the budget. We instead spent the time discussing issues like the improper labeling of catfish. And when the General Assembly’s Session concluded last week, House Speaker Mike Madigan sent members home without allowing debate or a vote on a single budget bill.
It was reported that, despite their large majority, Madigan and his House Democrats couldn’t agree among themselves how much more to spend on state government, or how large a tax increase to impose on Illinoisans. Madigan has made it clear he won’t talk with the House Republican leadership to forge a working majority for a compromise budget. Instead, we’re told that the Democrats will hold occasional hearings in Chicago in June, to give the appearance that they are working on a budget. And leading Democrats have repeatedly said there will be no budget as long as Bruce Rauner is governor.
This mess can be confusing to a person looking at it from the outside. Why would anyone want to prolong the broad suffering and national embarrassment of being the only state without a budget? There’s one key reason: Mike Madigan desperately wants to win the 2018 governor’s election.
You see, the consensus wisdom is that, if there’s no budget, then Bruce Rauner cannot win reelection in 2018. And that has two major implications: first, winning the governor’s mansion would give Democrats full control over all three branches of government, just as they had during the Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn administrations. That means full control of all legislation, of every executive appointment, and of thousands of jobs for your political workers. Second, a Democrat governor and Democrat General Assembly together means that Madigan would draw the legislative map in 2020, just as he did in 2010, essentially guaranteeing Democrat control of the Illinois General Assembly, until January 2033.
The 2010 Madigan map was ranked as one of the most gerrymandered and partisan maps in American history. In the years since, that map has provided the Democrats an unchallenged supermajority in the Illinois Senate and a sizeable majority in the House. Consider this: in 2014, the people of Illinois went 51% for the Republican candidate for governor and 46% for the Democrat, a margin of 5 percent. But because of the Madigan map, Democrats in that election took 20 percent more House seats than Republicans, 60%-40%, and 36 percent more Senate seats, 68%-32%. That’s not a recipe for good government, much less a functioning democracy.
I’ve started to ask whether House Democrats care that they risk turning Illinois into a “Mad Max” backdrop—because at this point, their only purpose appears to be ensuring that Mike Madigan stands triumphant over the barren wasteland at the end of the movie.
Illinois Debt Downgraded Again by Two of Three Major Credit Agencies
The downgrades imposed by Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, move Illinois to the brink of “junk bond” status. The rating status, which in Moody’s terminology is “Baa3” and in S&P’s wording is “BBB-“, comes with a “negative outlook,” a formal warning by both debt-rating firms that a further demotion of Illinois’ status to non-investment-grade is both possible and relatively imminent. The moves, announced on Thursday, June 1, followed the Democrat-controlled General Assembly’s failure to enact a FY18 budget by the May 31st deadline.
Should Illinois’ debt be demoted to below investment-grade status, the consequences would go beyond higher interest costs to Illinois taxpayers. Many segments of the investment industry, such as pension funds, are partially or totally barred from taking positions in non-investment-grade securities. The State of Illinois might find itself increasingly unable to sell debt at all, a fate which is already affecting the non-investment-grade bonds issued by Chicago Public Schools. Furthermore, economic experts warn that a further reduction in Illinois’ debt to below investment grade would serve as a signal to the global private sector that Illinois is diminishing its commitment to policies that make the State an acceptable place to invest money and create jobs.
Where’s the Silver Lining?
As you know, I always like to give you a little nugget of positivity, despite the madness we’re facing. Despite everything going on, there is still a core group of legislators who are dedicated to turning Illinois around. These are folks who put aside more lucrative pursuits to go to Springfield, because they deeply care about this state and want to see it brought back to life. We’re working to put together an affordable realistic budget, and we’re advancing measures to improve Illinois’ jobs climate, so our state can again be a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family.
As your voice in Springfield, I’m working to make our state and our communities the best they can be. If you have any questions or concerns or would like to invite me to speak to a group in the 48th District, please contact my office at (630) 403-8135, or visit reppeterbreen.org and click the contact button.
Yours in good government,