Dating back to 2004, the Illinois Legislature has found it difficult to impossible to come up with a state spending plan.
The lawmakers then were rebelling against Gov. Rod Blagojevich. He had taken office in early 2003 and got his first budget passed without much problem. But with the 2004 budget, the legislators insisted on fiscal constraint and that wasn’t in Blagojevich’s repertoire.
Blagojevich was ousted early this year, and Gov. Pat Quinn was welcomed as a breath of fresh air. However, the Legislature has been used to battling with the administration, and so Quinn’s honeymoon has been short.
House Democrats did not like Quinn’s idea for a 4.5 percent income tax — up from the current 3 percent tax. That may well be because Speaker Michael Madigan does not want Quinn to get any big victory. Madigan’s daughter, Lisa, is deciding whether to run for governor next year, and her fortunes in the Democratic primary could be bolstered by making Quinn look inadequate.
There are other theories that Democratic incumbents don’t want to vote on a big tax increase before election filings begin late this year. Under that scenario, the lawmakers will sweep into town and shore up the state spending plan during the veto session.
Republicans will have a greater voice in deciding on a budget now that the May 31 deadline has passed. It will take a 60 percent super majority to pass a budget in a special session. That gives GOP members a voice that could have been silenced if Democrats in the House and Senate had been on the same page during the regular session.
All that political inside-baseball should not obscure the fact that many people will be hurt if the current budget goes into effect without changes. By cutting most human services by 50 percent, the budget will cut care for senior citizens, those with mental illnesses, people with disabilities and many other vulnerable people. Many state workers could lose their jobs, and thousands of people contracting with the state have already been put on notice that their jobs will be gone.
Overall, it’s a pretty bleak picture. Everybody loses.