Gov. Bruce Rauner appeared to be extending an olive branch in an effort to end the budget impasse in Springfield, which is now entering its 11th month.
However, suburban mayors are not buying it and can’t understand the logic behind Rauner’s insistence on every aspect of his turnaround agenda.
“I’ve seen other states that have been cutting taxes in an attempt to create jobs that they think will create business growth,” said Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett during a recent Southwest Conference of Mayors meeting. “It just isn’t going to work and other states have found this out, like Kansas. The economics just don’t add up. This governor is working under the impression that this will work. It just won’t work.”
Bennett, who serves as the president of the Southwest Conference of Mayors, was in Springfield this week, hopefully to get some answers and see if some ideas are being considered to end the budget stalemate. The Southwest Conference of Mayors held a luncheon on Wednesday in Springfield.
Rauner on Friday said that he is optimistic that due to a series of bipartisan meetings that have been held recently that negotiations may begin for emergency assistance to aid social service agencies. The governor compared it to the agreement on April 15 that provides $600 million for colleges and universities to keep their doors open throughout the summer.
However, despite the emergency funding, Chicago State University announced that they are laying off 300 employees, or 35 percent of administrative and non-faculty staff as of last Friday. At the end of the summer, more faculty members at CSU may join the unemployment line. Chicago State and representatives at local colleges and universities were grateful to receive the emergency funding. In the case of Chicago State, it was too little, too late.
Rauner has said that he understands the anguish of Chicago State University students. The governor added that he is confidents that further negotiations can help many of the social agencies that are either nearly broke or have ceased operating.
The governor said that he believes a compromise can be reached on redistricting maps and create term limits for legislators. House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd) has said the voters already have the power to vote incumbents out at the polls.
Democrats are also cautious about the governor’s tone. If he insists on restricting collective bargaining and diminishing the power of unions, then negotiations are not going to budge.
State Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th), whose district includes Evergreen Park and portions of Oak Lawn, and state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th), have been holding a series of morning meetings with constituents over coffee. Burke said the major obstacle has been restrictions on collective bargaining and major concessions by union leaders that Rauner has insisted upon as part of his turnaround agenda.
“There are things we can work with,” said Burke. “The governor wants term limits. I personally don’t agree but we can look at that. But calling for the end of collective bargaining is not going to happen.”
Cunningham, whose district includes portions of Worth, Palos and Orland townships, agreed and added that it does not help that the governor makes these demands instead of negotiating.
“The governor had talked about shutting everything down if he doesn’t get what he wants,” said Cunningham, “But when you say the government, it also means Misericordia and Catholic Charities.”
“We will not talk about collective bargaining,” said Burke. “But we will talk about other issues.”
While Democrats and Republicans are talking about some compromises, southwest suburban mayors are still frustrated with the governor. Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar still could not believe that the governor held back motor fuel tax funds that he said should not be part of any budget in the first place.
Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves said that he voted for Rauner but admits that he is disappointed in his approach during this budget deadlock.
“He just doesn’t understand how things are done,” said a frustrated Reaves during a Southwest Conference of Mayors meeting. “He said he gave in on the MFT funds. He didn’t give us anything. We should not have had to negotiate over MFT funds.
“Illinois State, Northern Illinois, Western Illinois, (they) don’t know if they are going to open in the fall,” added Reaves. “We need to stay on our legislators to get something done.”
Bennett believes something will occur soon.
“The driving force is education,” said Bennett. “Education will be the driving force to get them to the table. A lot of this is just posturing.”