Monday, July 02, 2007

Overtime budget decision: Emil Jones v. Tom Cross

The question will likely be resolved in late July: will the Senate Democratic plan for solving some problems (like a state structural deficit, poor schools in property-poor areas, a transit system shutting down in September and too many medical bankruptcies) with new revenues and new investments be implemented or will the House Republican plan for letting the problems wait for another day in return for not significantly raising taxes, fees or gambling prevail?

In legislative leader parlance, I think the real overtime battle is between Emil Jones and Tom Cross.

I'm not a fan of the leader shorthand that is often employed in state government discussions, as I think each caucus is much more diverse than the particular personality and policy preference of the leader. So, it isn't enough to say "what Madigan wants" as a substitute for what the members of the House Democratic Caucus want, because each of the leaders represents the views of their members, not just their own views.

So, it's clear that many (perhaps most) Republican members would accept not solving some problems in exchange for not increasing the state's 3% income tax, the sales tax, creating a new business tax, raising state fees or expanding gambling (aside from putting slots in existing casinos and, perhaps, race tracks).

It's also clear that many (certainly most, perhaps all) Senate Democratic members would accept raising taxes, fees or gambling opportunities in exchange for solving problems and making investments in education, transportation and health care.

Now that at least 4 House Republicans are required to pass a budget for the rest of the calendar year, the ultimate consensus over the FY08 budget must include some of the views of House Republicans.

Thus, a stalemate.

Either the Senate Democrats will have to trim their sails and allow many problems to go unsolved for another year or the House Republicans will have to grudgingly accept higher taxes, fees or gambling to invest the revenues in solving problems.

Perhaps they will "meet in the middle" but ultimately, the budget must fall between those two poles.

There are a few interesting observations.

One is that there are certainly 4 lower-income districts currently represented by House Republicans that would benefit from higher taxes, fees and/or gambling and the corresponding higher state spending that such taxes, fees or gambling can finances. Generally speaking, lower-income districts benefit from higher spending, and many lower-income rural districts are represented by Rs. Will these rural Republicans be able to "vote their districts" and support a Senate budget or will their ideological affiliation trump the economics of their districts? Ideally, these rural Republicans would get a seat at the table to help find a budget that can earn the votes of 71 Representatives and 36 Senators.

Another observation is that in the face of a stalemate, there is no natural default position. In other words, if Emil Jones and Tom Cross both dig in their heels (and forgive the leader shorthand again, as it over-emphasizes the personalities of the leaders) and stick to their respective positions, even as the 31-day budget expires and the state government starts to shutdown, accepting a no-growth budget in the face of disagreement isn't any more natural than accepting a high-growth budget in the face of disagreement.

Some might suggest that if there isn't a consensus for solving problems, then the coalition to increase spending has not grown strong enough so the legislature should default back to the status quo. However, when enough members have decided they will not support the status quo, then the argument is flipped: the coalition to maintain the status quo has not grown strong enough, so the legislature should default to new spending.

All that is to say that this is really the time when advocates and citizens should weigh in on their vision for state government and help forge a consensus over the smartest investments we can make. Legislative positions will change over the next four weeks or the state government will shut down.


grand old partisan 9:34 AM  

Perhaps it might be worth remembering why at least 4 House Republicans are now required to pass a budget.

Anonymous,  9:36 AM  

Your analysis seems over-simplified, incomplete, snd biased.

First, the tone of your piece would suggest to the reader that the House Republican caucus is responsible for the current stalemate; and I believe the reality is that there is nothing further from the truth for the minority caucus, which was afforded little input, other than what the Speaker would allow, prior to May 31st.

Second; while you reference four House districts currently represented by Republicans that would benefit from higher taxes and increased spending, you neglect to make any mention of House Democratic districts that would benefit also, but who's elected representatives are also opposed to the expansion of big government.

More telling however is your complete ommission of any reference to the Senate Democratic veto proof "super-majority". The Senate Democrats have had; and still have, sufficient numbers to pass anything they want. Many; if not all of the Senate Democrats represent areas that would directly benefit from higher revenue and increased spending, and yet the Senate to date has yet to call a bill for a vote on any of the propsoed revenues or programs.

The fact of the matter is that the votes are simply not there in either chamber to pass the Governor's overly ambitious plan.

The sooner all parties recognize this the more quickly the matter should get resolved.

The reality however is that this does not represent a choice between the philosophy of Senator Jones and Representative Cross. Senator Jones does not have the votes, despite the super-majority, and Representative Cross, even if he put up 4 votes for some tax and spend plan, this does not mean that 4 would be anywhere near enough, as House Democrats would not vote in lock-step to make up the difference for the 3/5 majority required.

The bottom line is that the majority of the citizens of Illinois do not want these suggested massive tax and spend proposals, and their elected officials from all parties in both chambers are representing their interests by withholding their votes for these proposals.

Anonymous,  9:45 AM  

Not sure I buy into your premise, but let's play...

If that's the case, in your scenario, the Republicans only come out to provide the votes, and then they're back "on the shelf", until next time.

Because truthfully, the Republicans have pretty much seen needs for their districts ignored, and "wishes" for Democratic areas fufilled - and Emil Jones has spent the most time pigging out (see Chicago State as an example). So why sign on so we can just get more of the same?

"...ideological affiliation trump the economics of their districts..." - It's not ideology at work here - it's really economics. Again, why should Republicans trade the one thing they now have, which are the critical deciding votes, and settle for a few cents when Chicago gets all the big bucks?

Because the reality is, there's just NO WAY to settle this issue without those Republican votes, and once they get cast, the Republicans go back on the shelf, so why sell cheap? You want the votes - either (a) Do the budget our way, or (b) Pay through the nose, and realize, there are deal breaker issues out there.

Also, don't underestimate a few factors that really stick in the craw of downstate folks:
1) Emil's wheeling & dealing and the electricity rate increases.
2) His Chicago State dealings, family members involvement, etc.

Looks like this is a post designed to float the idea that Cross will bail Blago out one more time, going back to their house sharing days.

Not this time - that's not only a "bridge too far", it's a "non-existent bridge lying under the rainbow".

Methinks we'll still be doing this in August.

JBP 9:52 AM  

"there are certainly 4 lower-income districts currently represented by House Republicans that would benefit from higher taxes"

Benefit how? From giving more money to a thoroughly fouled up organization like Illinois State Government? Poor people, much like wealthy people, do not benefit by giving their hard earned resources to Gov. Blagojevich and Co. so that our Politicians can squander our assets on buying votes, shiny beads and trinkets.


Dan Johnson 10:02 AM  

I didn't bother laying out the math of either chamber, assuming readers understand that the House GOPers didn't have any voice in putting us into overtime and that readers understand that Senate Dems have a super-majority. But as to the bigger question: how can House Republicans ever justify raising revenues if they don't trust that the money will be spent in their districts, I think the answer is in crafting a good program (like the School Construction Grant program) that doesn't give the Governor much discretion on spending. Or passing a continuing appropriation (like we do with pensions). Or, as the House GOP has put forward, spending lots of the money on capital (so the extra revenues are locked up for a decade to finance the big capital expense). It's ideological and not pragmatic to suggest that people don't benefit from investments like a higher foundation formula or more health insurance eligibility or better transportation networks.

steve schnorf 12:15 PM  

I don't think I buy much of what you're saying here. You use a curious construct for rural Rs "voting their districts", apparently what is externally defined as best for their district as opposed to the usual what the voters in the district want.

Realistically, your pining (and mine) for an income tax increase, and in your case, a sales tax increase, just aren't going to be fulfilled this session as long as the Governor sticks to his pledge to veto.

It's easiest for me to look at from the perspective of the budget Madigan passed, because I don't think we're going to end up anywhere near the budget the Governor proposed. If I recall correctly, Madigan's budget assumes about $200m in corporate tax loophole closing. Are the House Rs ever going to vote for those?

Second, Madigan's budget doesn't
fund the union contract, and doesn't fully fund Medicaid.

So. let's just set a SWAG at $600m more in revenue needed to really fund Madigan's budget, which the Senate Ds and the Governor define as terribly inadequate. From there, you believe that good things should be done for our citizens in the budget (so do I, by the way).

Pick a good thing (more funding for higher ed to reduce the terrible middle class tax increase of huge tuition increases? fully fund the el and sec foundation level? expand the availability of health care coverage?). Take your pick, but none of these are small ticket items. Now add all this up, and I say we would be at least $1b short of a budget that would pay for the current obligations, and do anything significant new.

So, new revenues. Cross has said his caucus could support expanded positions at the boats, but they want the money used for a capital program. Let's assume that at some point they could be convinced to continue their support for the revenue and agree to let it be used for operations rather than capital (I doubt it's possible, but maybe there could be some middle ground).

Then, will the gaming industry ever agree on a bill where some of them get most of what they want, and most of them get nothing of what they want? Would Jones agree to a baby gaming bill with no new boats? Would the mayor?

I think we're in a real jam, in what could have been a session of epic proportions, a legacy session for many of the main players. I don't see how we get out of it. The key question would be; Can anyone think of a significant new revenue source that the Governor would agree to, and Madigan and Jones could agree on, that doesn't require 3/5 to pass?

Dan Johnson 2:37 PM  

Steve, I don't understand why the governor's veto matters any more. I'm a fan of an income tax hike (and a sales tax hike for transit). The Governor will veto both of these. But, so what? The same 71 bipartisan Representatives who calculate their people will be better off with an income or sales tax hike and the same 36 Senators (either all D or a little bipartisan) who make the same calculation would do so knowing full well that the Governor will veto the bill. And then, they will vote again for the same thing and override the veto.

So, I appreciate you reminding us of the magnitude of the structural deficit, and the need for higher education money (those guys have the weakest statewide message and campaign, wouldn't you say?) but I think the real session began June 1 when the Governor's veto threat became essentially irrelevant.

JBP 4:14 PM  

"It's suggest that people don't benefit from investments like a higher foundation formula or more health insurance eligibility or better transportation networks"'s quite measurable that education, healthcare and transportation are not so hot.

When you can measure the piss-poor results, your ideology is irrelevant.


steve schnorf 4:25 PM  

Dan, you may be right and me wrong, but I think it takes more than the 36 and 71 necessary to pass a bill. Once the players have identified themselves, any Governor can peel off SOME votes on a override. I would figure at least 38 and 73, but I don't think it matters, because as of the mess the GA and Gove have gotten themselves into, I don't expect any R votes to bail them out unless it would be for very specific R items.

Anonymous,  4:56 PM  

I'll let you all in on a little secret:

One of the top legislative liasons has been working with Tom Cross's office in an intense effort to get accurate estimates on several capital projects in or near his district.

Yellow Dog Democrat 5:20 PM  

For every House Republican who represents a low income district that would benefit from higher state spending (and higher taxes), there are probably one or two Democrats that represent more affluent districts that would not benefit, or where a tax hike would at least be a toss-up. Just off the top of my head:


That means finding not just 4 House Republicans to support a tax increase, but more like 12.

You will never win the argument for greater state spending and higher taxes by arguing people vote their individual interests or their district. People must be united for the common good and consider their indirect interests, like the benefit of lower crime and welfare and higher employment from better schools, or the economic and environmental benefits of an efficient mass transit system.

Anonymous,  8:00 PM  

The fact is that revenues will need to be raised (either by taxes, "user fees", "sin" expansion or selling off state assets) to accomplish a more ambitious budget. In the past, brick-and-mortar projects have provided tangible results that provided some cover for those revenue increases. If Republicans act as a bloc, they have a good chance this session of getting some projects, which they feel they have been shorted on the last 5 years or so. I think a capital bill with goodies for the R districts will be an inevitable result of this session, the way it is unfolding.

"JD" said a lot of this previously. This is the one chance for the R's to be relevant in recent history, and I don't think anyone will be able to peel away any votes without a deal being struck.

Dan Johnson 11:19 PM  

I think there are lots of specific R items. Special education and mandated categoricals are essentially R items (since they benefit more affluent school districts more). I could be wrong, but I've always understood those two components of General State Aid to be be more R-friendly.

YDD, the Ds who represent more affluent districts also largely represent people who are willing to raise taxes (on themselves) to invest in the greater good. That's why those voters are Democrats. So, the argument for a low-income R to vote your district and raise taxes is more relevant than an argument for a high-income D to vote your district and not raise taxes -- because Democratic voters are OK with raising taxes. Now, a Democratic legislator in a red district (like Franks) doesn't follow that rule, but I'd suggest he's the exception rather than the rule.

We still have an opportunity for a legacy session (to borrow Steve's phrase), because the fundamentals still line up that 60% of districts in each chamber would benefit from higher taxes.

JB might not think so, but I think most voters do.

Extreme Wisdom 12:19 AM  


Sooner or later, the "R" voting populace is going to understand that any dime going to public education is never, ever, ever, going to be "R friendly." The entire Raison d'être of the public education establishment is to destroy everything a "republican" might stand for.

Even such bureaucrateze gibberish like "mandated categoricals" and "EFAB funding formulas" can't hide the obvious.

But I digress....

The fact is that all 3 players (Rod, the 2 Tops, and the 2 not-so-tops) badly want to hike taxes. Another fact is that they are afraid to.

Very few people buy into the purchased polls supporting a "tax swap." The voters know its fake, even as they support the concept. You are one of the few people honest enough to play it straight, and ask for a straight-up tax increase.

My guess is that JBP is closer to the truth than most people wish to admit. Illinois' political leadership is akin the 4 year old who has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. They know that we know (or would know- if we could get an ad campaign of any quality) that the talk of more revenue has next to nothing to do with "construction grants" or "health care for kids."

They merely want the gravy train to keep rolling, and the voters, once informed of the facts, don't.

The failure to pass a tax increase is merely an act of self-preservation on their part. I'm as critical of our political class as any, but it isn't as if they don't know the lay of the political land. If the support for a massive tax increase was out there, it would have passed months ago.

BTW, look what's happening in FL and CT.

Dan Johnson 8:09 AM  

Bruno, I think everything you've just said would apply to a Libertarian. A Republican, on the other hand, understands that government works. Raising state taxes to pay for 100% of the cost of special education teachers -- those committed souls who spend their days one-on-one or in small groups with our children who happen to be born with severe disabilities and relieving their parents of the crushing burden of trying to educate their children with severe disabilities -- is how state government works. Funding our community colleges and universities so that working people can afford tuition instead of requiring students to take on incredible debt is how state government works. Paying for teachers -- even union employees! -- to work longer days and get better credentials so that our children are smarter and more prepared to run businesses and manage their personal budgets and avoid criminal behavior is how state government works.

You don't have to believe in government. You don't have to believe in highways or hospitals or colleges or elementary schools. That makes you a Libertarian, not a Republican.

There's a pragmatic, legacy budget solution that I believe the General Assembly can craft this summer. I hope we all can help hasten that process with pragmatic ideas that improve Illinois.

Bill Baar 8:36 AM  

The fact is that all 3 players (Rod, the 2 Tops, and the 2 not-so-tops) badly want to hike taxes. Another fact is that they are afraid to.

It's just that simple, although you have to give Cross credit for hanging tough so far.

This isn't Libertarian. It's anyone radicalized by the corruption in this State. (And the radicals sure aren't in the left anymore!)

JBP 9:55 AM  

Whenever anyone claims that higher taxes are some kind of "investment" in providing services to the poor, I revert to the fact that the PR program for All Kids/Kids Care cost more than the actual total cost of providing All Kid/Kids Care.

That's right, the majority of the spending was on PR, not on healthcare delivery. The State could not care less about the poor, and the voters know it.


Extreme Wisdom 10:13 AM  


Your analysis is somewhat accurate inside the confines of conventional wisdom, which in my view, is a contradiction in terms.

In my view, our over use of party labels and annoying "partisanship" obfuscates the fact that nearly every thinking person is about 1/3 libertarian, 1/3 collectivist (Democrat), and 1/3 conservative (Republican)

If you strip the words above of their negative connotations and simply apply their dictionary definitions, it would be hard to find a person who didn't have views that bleed over the lines in some case or another.

My education plan, AND my views on the excessive waste on payroll, perks, pensions, and pork hardly make me a "libertarian." Decent Democrats ought to hate such waste too.

You know as well as I do that "special education" needs can be met with out creating a massive number of special ed payrollees and the ubiquitous "directors, "facilitators," and "coordinators" that are added to the bloat.

I could make a strong case against "mainstreaming" in most circumstances. I could also make a strong case for adding a "special education" category to my scholarship plan, allowing the parents of special needs kids to decide how best to meet their child's needs.

This is hardly "libertarian". In fact, it is downright progressive. Building wasteful bureaucracies of patronage workers and calling it "education" isn't libertarian, conservative NOR collectivist. It is just plain corrupt.

It is time some one said so.

BTW, I've stated many times that the Community College system is, dollar for dollar, the best education buy in the state. Gut the worthless "end-of-career" bonuses and abolish the useless school district and its bureaucratic bloat, and you'll have plenty of money to allocate to the Comm. Coll. system.

Again, you can't fund a child's education if you are funding a wasteful "education bureaucracy."

You can't fund a clinic for the poor if you are funding essentially useless "health insurance schemes."

Anonymous,  12:51 PM  


You're being way, way too optimistic - based upon what I'm hearing, the Republican reps are getting in terms of feedback, people just flat out don't trust state government to use any of their tax money wisely. They look at their May/June, 2007 electric bills and figure they already got their state tax increase.

It's always the little stuff being tossed out there (like Blago's flights back & forth to Springfield), but the logic is simply if the state spends like drunken spendthrifts now, why should we give them even more money? That's a tough one to fight against, and with the start of the summer electric bills (which is going to be a VERY BAD THING for any budget deals), and soon Cook County's tax bills, well it's going to be a long, long summer.

Looks to me like Mike Madigan has heard the whisperings out there, which is why he's got his "starvation" budget proposal out there. Personally, I don't think it's going to get much better than that.

The only thing I see that could even start to break the budget logjam would be for the RTA to get rights to levy the additional local sales tax for their capital needs, with the bulk of the new money going to PACE & METRA, and some other odds & ends added into the deal. Cross would have a hard time keeping some of his suburban legislators away from that type of deal, but realize, there will have to be some rock hard deals, because very few of either party trust this Governor to any degree at all.

But that means Blago has to crack on his sales tax stance, and that's unlikely.

Anonymous,  1:54 PM  

perhaps you should remember that we are in a special session because of an all democrat leadership.BLAGO, EMIL JONES AND MADIGAN did not need any republican votes to do anything during the legeslative session but they still did nothing. EMIL JONES should remember that his constituants are hurting from high electric rates but the millions he has recieved from com ed have made him deaf to there problems. Maybe if blago wasnt wasting money flying back and forth on a taxpayer paid for plane and EMIL JONES friends at Chicago state wernt going on taxpayer paid for cruises and paying there bar bills with our tax money there wouldnt be a need to raise taxes. You attempt to draw the republicans into this mess is pathetic THIS OVERTIME AND ALL ITS PROBLEMS ARE BROUGHT TO YOU BY BLAGO EMIL JONES AND MADIGAN AND THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF MORE TAXING AND MORE SPENDING.

Dan Johnson 2:42 PM  

I agree that the little things hurt the perception that state government isn't particularly prudent, particularly Air Blagojevich. And I don't believe it's close to accurate to say the PR for AllKids costs more than delivering service to the hundreds of thousands of children who are covered under the program.

That being said, I do think that transit has a great opportunity to move forward, regardless of the Governor's veto threat. I really don't understand why legislators care whether the Governor vetoes the bill or not since it takes a 3/5 vote to pass the bill in the first place. I might be underestimating the degree to which Governor Blagojevich can successfully pressure a particular legislator to flip post-veto and pre-override, though.

And Bruno, I agree that we shouldn't be funneling our taxpayer health care dollars through for-profit insurance companies as a "health insurance scheme." I think we ought to cut out all those middlemen and just provide the service directly to the people.

Anonymous,  4:01 PM  

"I agree that the little things hurt the perception that state government isn't particularly prudent, particularly Air Blagojevich."

Dan, small things (more than just one), easy to understand by taxpayers, and it just sticks in their throats. BIG IMPACTS.

If Blago thought the GA was being difficult before the 4th of July recess, just wait.

As for state controlled healthcare, right now, given this state's current political and fiscal environment, you couldn't sell that concept with a cannon pointed down people's throat.

Electricity and property taxes. Those are Issues "1" and "1a" out there as topics. Many people feel they have already been hit with 2 tax hikes this year, and there's no appetite for a third one.

I'm still betting on August, maybe further. And it's going to be a very austere budget when it gets done.

JBP 4:07 PM  

Got the actual number and story from someone from that office..
It was the I-Save Rx program...The state paid about $1 Million to facilitate unlawful imports of drugs from Canada. The total value of the imported drugs...$1.8 Million.

Here it is from the auditor general.

He suggested that the All Kids had a similar performance, but the Auditor General has not looked at it yet. My mistake.


Dan Johnson 5:37 PM  

Thanks for checking JBP. And JD on the way, I don't sense electricity rates have really caught fire in ComEd territory. I understand they have in Amerenland. And property taxes....I don't know about that either. Certainly for some (seniors who don't understand the freezes they get, property-poor areas with very high rates), but I wouldn't say that those are the two big issues for most voters.

Anonymous,  2:02 PM  

There are a lot of us real taxpayers out here who don't see this as a Republican vs. Democrat thing (despite dan's--and Blago's--tired efforts to demonize the Republicans yet again)
but as a raid on our finances by a bunch of corrupt (and wealthy) politicians who want to keep power as long as they can.

The purpose of a lottery sale or an income tax increase is only peripherally to fund education and health care. Primarily it is to make politicians and their supporters rich (through earmarks and state contracts) and to expand the number of do-nothing state patronage employees who will vote for them. If there is any money left over it can go to education and health care, but that's hardly the priority. And most of that will go to Chicago, where Blago gets his votes.

Come back to me with a request for more taxes when you've eliminated the Illinois corruption tax. Or tax the wealthy for a change via a progressive income tax. And let Chicago tax itself more instead of grabbing more of suburban and Downstaters' money.

  © Blogger template The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP