Local reps: State budget work can't stop

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The state budget stalemate now extends into June, but state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th) said that if the Legislature has to work all summer to come to an agreement, then everyone should get back to Springfield and get the job done.

“Our work in Springfield is far from over and I am prepared to work over the summer with Gov. Rauner to pass a fair and responsible budget,” Burke said. “Illinois has gone 700 days without a budget, pushing our higher education system to the breaking point, jeopardizing life-preserving programs for our seniors, and leaving many of our schools without the funds they need to open their doors in the fall. The time for political games is over, it is time to set partisanship aside and work towards repairing our state.”

House Democrats had submitted a bill to provide more than $800 million in special funds to social service agencies and public universities. However, Rauner said on Facebook that he will oppose any ‘stopgap” measure without a permanent property tax freeze.

“We cannot accept a [House Speaker Michael] Madigan stopgap without a permanent property tax freeze to protect the hard-working taxpayers of Illinois,” said Rauner in the video.

The governor has said he opposed anymore stopgap budget proposals. He has blamed Democrats and Madigan for keeping “universities, community colleges and social service agencies on the verge of collapse with no permanent funding to keep their lines of credit intact.”

According to published reports, Rauner said that Madigan’s proposals are meant to force a tax hike. He said he would only support higher taxes if certain reforms, like term limits for lawmakers, an overhaul of state workers’ compensation, changes to collective bargaining, and a property tax freeze were approved.

However, it was Rauner who rejected a compromise bill that passed the Senate that included workers’ comprehensive reforms, tax caps and term limits he had been seeking. Madigan, when he saw the gubernatorial veto was imminent, chose not to call the Senate bill. He then passed a series of stopgap spending bills that Rauner had indicated he opposed.

Burke, who represents Evergreen Park and portions of Oak Lawn, said that she and other Democrats are willing to compromise with the governor.

“There are parts of the governor’s agenda I can support – and I have,” Burke said. “I voted over a dozen times to freeze property taxes, and I supported a plan this spring that would lower property taxes for every single homeowner in Illinois.”

Burke mentioned legislation that would save taxpayers money, including making it easier to consolidate local units of government and allowing the state to put the Thompson Center up for sale. However, Democrats opposed a recent proposal to sell the Thompson Center.

The state rep also said she supports economic reforms to cut taxes for small businesses, while cracking down on corporations who ship jobs overseas by outlawing future tax dollars for these companies.

“There are also parts of his agenda I know go too far and would hurt middle-class families simply to pad corporate profits,” Burke said. “The only way we’re going to work through these differences and ultimately pass the balanced budget is through compromise and negotiation.”

State Rep. Fran Hurley (D-35th), whose district includes portions of Worth and Worth Township, was also disappointed that a budget could not be reached at the end of May.

“The state of Illinois has now struggled 700 days without a full budget,” Hurley said. “Even through the World Wars and the Great Depression, lawmakers in Illinois were able to put aside their partisan differences and do what is best for the state.”

Hurley agrees with Burke that more work needs to be done. Hurley said she supports meaningful property tax relief, worker’s compensation reform and changes to the procurement process.

“I urge legislators and the governor to now find common ground on the budget,” Hurley added. “This summer we will be in continuous session, and I am willing to stay in Springfield as long as it takes to reach an agreement on a complete, balanced responsible budget. The stakes are high; our children are supposed to return to school in the fall, and without a budget our schools won’t have the resources they need to open. The time is now.”

Passing a budget by the end of the month will be more difficult because some Republican votes will be necessary to reach the three-fifths benchmark that will now be required.

“I’m prepared to make the compromises necessary to pass a budget that focuses on our strengths, which includes our higher education system,” Burke said. “I will continue fighting for the full funding of our education system, expanded financial assistance to ensure our best and brightest choose to attend school here in Illinois, and help all residents receive the education they need to compete in a 21st century economy.”