Finally, some glimmer of hope that Illinois might move past the budget impasse! It took a group of independent political reform groups to publicly offer to facilitate (or should I say shame) an open meeting among the players. The stakes for participating in a meaningful (non-partisan looking) manner are probably more beneficial when it comes to political fundraising versus being beneficial for the people of Illinois. But in the end, who cares what it takes-let’s just get it done.
On November 9th, the Huffington Post reprinted a synopsis of an article from Reboot Illinois. They gave the story national attention because there is finally hope that breaking the budget impasse in Illinois may be possible.
The dynamics of a potential breakthrough began last week when the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR) teamed up with six other political reform groups in an open letter to House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. They offered to organize and host a public meeting between the House and Senate leaders and Gov. Rauner to break the deadlock. While the Governor refused the ICPR’s offer to facilitate the meeting, all parties did agree to make the meeting public. Given how angry Illinois voters are, it is likely that these politicians will feel the pressure because this meeting will afford Illinois voters the opportunity to see whether Rauner and/or the state’s Democratic leaders are serious about a budget solution. If any party or their allies come across as combative and unyielding, they risk increased political fallout as we enter an election year.
If the Governor agrees to a budget deal, he gets to claim credit for enforcing spending cuts and blame the Democrats for raising taxes. No incumbent politician wants to run for election following a tax hike. The governor will surely try to leverage voter anger as a method to raise additional campaign funds in support of Republican candidates who might appeal to Independents in the general election. As of early November, Rauner’s campaign fund contained $19.6 million. That’s more than six times the amount now held in Democratic Party campaign funds controlled by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton combined. This will shift the landscape drastically for the 2016 primary and general elections. This does not include SuperPacs money. So far for this election cycle, Republican SuperPacs have raised far more money than their Democratic counterparts have. Add the fact that Illinois campaign finance laws do not limit how much money can be transferred to a political party campaign fund or how much these SuperPacs can give to candidates in general elections.
Ironically, a budget deal looks more likely because the Governor may view it as more to his advantage for the 2016 elections than do his Democratic opponents. At this point, my sense is that a large majority of Illinoisans just want a budget passed, no matter what it takes.
Robert Hoyt, Ph.D
Allied Health Professionals LLC