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No One Is Really Celebrating The State's Stopgap Budget Deal

By aaroncynic in News on Jul 1, 2016 2:50PM

Not everyone celebrated the stopgap budget Illinois lawmakers sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner Thursday afternoon. While the package of legislation that Rauner signed late Thursday evening will be enough to keep schools open this fall and fund some human services, education and transportation projects for the next six months, the money is only enough to last lawmakers and the Governor through the November election cycle.

Hundreds of people with dozens of community groups rallied at the Thompson Center Thursday to demand Rauner and lawmakers pass a full budget that includes revenue increasing options Rauner has been vehemently opposed to unless parts of his “Turnaround Agenda” also pass. The rally, which included a march to Chase Bank on Jackson, began after smaller groups of demonstrators staged more than half a dozen “train takeovers” on nearly every CTA L line and at least one Metra line to take their concerns with the band-aid budget to commuters.

“I am angry. We are angry,” said Delia Ramirez of the Community Renewal Society. "Our communities, neighborhoods, schools are in a state of emergency. Our state government has failed to address the long term funding crisis. The future of Illinois is at risk.”

While the stopgap budget will address immediate needs, groups say that it is too little, too late. They also argue that the lack of a properly fully-funded budget does not undo the damage the impasse has done over the year.

“This is not a real budget, it’s a stopgap budget” said Reggie Griffin, of the Jane Adams Senior Caucus. Griffin, who called the stopgap “outrageous,” said that some 43,000 seniors could still see services reduced or lost altogether.

“We need him to know that we want him to raise revenues. We know that raising revenues we’ll ensure funding of home care services, meals on wheels, child care and transportation,” Griffin said.

Organizers chose to march to Chase Bank to highlight one of the many possible revenue options available to infuse sorely needed cash into Illinois’ coffers. Ideas like a “LaSalle Street” financial transactions tax, closing corporate tax loopholes, and switching the state’s flat tax to a graduated one, renegotiating interest rate swap deals—also known as toxic swaps—along with other bad deals, could save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Chase Bank has the money that belongs in our communities,” said Amisha Patel, Executive Director of the Grassroots Collaborative. Patel said that the financial behemoth has the potential to force the state to pay out $870 million in November. “What could that money do for our neighborhoods?” she asked the throngs of demonstrators. “Why do the banks go to the front of the line and our families last?”

Only a handful of lawmakers—four—voted no against the deal.

"Nothing that we are doing here will fix the financial problems of this state. In fact, just the opposite will occur,” Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat who won’t be fighting for his seat in November, told the Tribune. Republican David McSweeny joined Franks, saying that he opposed the measure because legislators should “reform spending” (i.e., cut) on health care and pensions.

Even both Rauner and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, who’s year-long battle has been the source of the impasse, weren’t terribly celebratory about the deal. Comments the pair made separately to the Tribune after Rauner inked the agreement hint at a coming but familiar war of words during the election cycle where each blames the other for the impasse.

“This is not a budget. This is not a balanced budget," said Rauner. “This is not a solution to our long-term challenges. This is a bridge to reform. That's what this is."

Meanwhile Madigan too, had some familiar sounding rhetoric:

"My priority, and the priority of House Democrats, continues to be the passage and implementation of a comprehensive, full-year state budget that fulfills the promises to Illinois' middle class, the elderly, children and most vulnerable. This can be achieved if we can again work together toward compromise, and instead of focusing on agendas that would hurt Illinois' middle class, focus on a budget that improves the quality of life for all Illinoisans.”

At least one person might be able to rest easy. Chris Kaergard, political reporter for the Peoria Journal Star who vowed to not shave until a budget deal was reached, will finally get to trim his beard. Kaergard, who’s beard is an impressive wizard level length of more than nine inches, told NBC5 that while the stopgap was imperfect, he absolutely “cannot wait” to get rid of the beard.