The Illinois House today handed a defeat to Gov Rauner, in his effort to stop the Illinois legislature from overriding his veto of the budget, when House members voted by the slimmest of margins to override. Illinois thus ended the longest span it’s gone without a full-year budget in its 199 year history as a state.
But with so much in the balance, the House vote was delayed for 2 1/2 hours, after a woman sprinkled a white power — near the Governor’s office. The Springfield Fire Department was called out, and the House Chamber put on lockdown status — while hazmat crews turned off the air conditioning and swept the area to secure, whether this was a real threat or an attack with a benign powder.
The debate was supposed to start around 1:30 pm, but it wasn’t until nearly 3:30 pm, that the “All Clear” was announced. During the delay, no one was allowed to leave the House Chamber.
House Democrats voted heavily to override, and were joined by 15 Republicans, giving the override a bipartisan cover. In the floor debate, virtually no Democrats spoke — leaving the approximately 40 mins of debate to Republican members who were frequently split in their need to have a budget.
House Republican Leader, Jim Durkin voted against the bill, but did not put up a vigorous argument. Republican Allen Skillcorn, called it a “junk budget” and urged members to vote this down and return to reforming state government to lower costs.
The Budget would spend $36.5 Billion, and raise corporate taxes and taxes on personal income from 3.75%, to 4.95%. It’s projected this would bring the state approximately $4.5 billion in new revenue. Prior to the budget passing, the state was bringing in approximately $31.5 billion in revenue, but spending around $39 billion, due to court-ordered spending on programs, like Medicaid.
As a result, without a budget in place, the state was running an annual budget deficit of nearly $8 Billion. With the tax increase, and by lowering the spending threshold by $3 billion, the state will come close to having a budget that is balanced.
Members voting in favor of the override, argued that the vote was necessary to avoid having Illinois become the first state to ever be downgraded to Junk Bond status — which would force higher interest rates on the state, and keep many investment houses from being able to even buy Illinois bonds, with such a low rating.
Now with its passage, it’s hoped the bond houses will continue to give the state the benefit of the doubt, and not lower the state’s credit rating again. It’s been lowered six times since Gov Rauner became governor in January 2015.
A number of Republican lawmakers argued they were voting for the bill to give the state time to then attempt to make further reforms that would lower the state’s excessive property taxes, lower the cost of Workers Compensation insurance, which is among the highest in in the nation, and PERHAPS, find a way to legally cap the growth of the pension costs, which ate up 5% of the state’s operating budget around 2002, and now devour 25% of the state’s operating budget. .
The budget needed 71 votes to override the veto. The vote came to 71-42, and looked very iffy for a brief time, as the first call out of “have all voted who wish?” came, only 58 votes for the override were posted. Suddenly that shot to 68, and then a few seconds later the vote settled at 71 for passage.
The Senate voted on July 4th, to override the Governor’s veto – thus setting the stage for today’s vote. It was delayed by a day, as there were not enough members back in Springfield, following the Fourth of July holiday for there to be a quorum on July 5, when the House opened.
At the end of the debate on Thursday, Speaker Madigan spoke briefly, and said this was an example of the House’s hard work, and bipartisan cooperation in reaching an agreement.
The House also voted to pass companion legislation, needed to implement the budget.