Thousands Flooded Springfield To Protest Rauner As Budget Impasse Drags On

By aaroncynic in News on May 19, 2016 9:27PM

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At the Springfield Rally. Photo by Tyler LaRiviere/Chicagoist

As the clock ticks closure to the adjournment of the Illinois legislature, more than 8,000 people descended on the State Capitol Wednesday to rebuke Gov. Bruce Rauner and his ‘Turnaround’ agenda. The coalition of labor and community groups that included thousands of union members, many of which have been at odds with the governor for his entire tenure in office over his agenda that would severely weaken unions, say Rauner’s agenda has been “devastating” for Illinoisans.

“This guy’s holding the state budget hostage unless he gets his way on these devastating policies,” said Jeff Maher, a Galesburg firefighter and member of the Associated FireFighters of Illinois. “He went around telling everybody he was going to ‘shake up Springfield’ with this agenda. What he didn’t tell you was how harmful that agenda was for people like me.”

Illinois has been without a budget for more than 320 days, and with only a little more than a week left before the legislature adjourns, could end up going a full fiscal year without one. Democratic lawmakers want a budget that includes revenue options to help plug the $9 billion deficit, but the governor has said he would only consider them if they pass a package of “reforms” that would give more power to big business while weakening unions. Meanwhile, the backlog of bills the state must pay grows larger every day. Earlier this week, data obtained by Voices For Illinois Children’s Fiscal Policy Center shows the Department of Human Services owes more than 800 agencies $350 million under contracts the state issued, including more than $27 million to the City of Chicago.

Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan held a closed-door meeting on Tuesday that had little results except the creation of another working group regarding Rauner’s reforms.

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At the Springfield Rally. Photo by Tyler LaRiviere/Chicagoist

“To take this path, we don’t have to enact every item of our Turnaround Agenda in their current forms, but we must pass real reforms this year,” Rauner told the Sun-Times. Those include a property tax freeze, worker’s compensation reforms and limits to collective bargaining.

Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton though, are less than enthusiastic about those reforms, which many groups have called “non-budgetary” items. The pair briefly took the stage at Wednesday’s rally. “Tell me how you feel,” Madigan told the throng of demonstrators, ticking off a list of the governor’s proposals. With each bullet point, the crowd responding with a thunderous “NO.”

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At the Springfield Rally. Photo by Tyler LaRiviere/Chicagoist

“Because of you, the people in Illinois make more money than in the non-union states,” said Cullerton. “We think that’s a good thing. The governor thinks you make too much money...We’re going to stay tough, fight for your interests and the middle class in the next two weeks.”

Rauner was dismissive of the rally, according to the Chicago Tribune. "If yelling and chanting and protesting solved problems, Illinois wouldn't have any problems,” he said.