It’s a year that no one will forget in Illinois politics. Will there be a budget impasse? Who will be the governor? What about the gun bills being discussed in the General Assembly?
By Emily Manley, INBA Professional Fellow, and Brian Moline
It's a year that no one will forget in Illinois politics. Will there be a budget impasse? Who will be the governor? What about the gun bills being discussed in the General Assembly? Charlie Wheeler, Director of the Public Affairs Reporting Master's program at the University of Illinois-Springfield, paired up with Brian Mackey, Statehouse reporter for WUIS, to try and explain the election in Illinois and the budget all in less than two hours at the spring convention.
A little more than a month ago, Illinois residents voted in the primary election. By the end of the day on March 20, incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner would take on Democratic candidate JB Pritzker in the November election. Mackey said challenger Jeanne Ives ran on the message that, "Rauner is not a real Republican." Wheeler added that, "Rauner has straight up lied" to conservatives about what he would do with HB40, a bill that allows abortions to be covered by Medicaid and state health insurance plans. Rauner signed the abortion bill back in the fall of 2017 after saying he would veto it. But the incumbent governor does not want to raise taxes on residents in the state.
On the other side of the aisle, Pritzker supports raising income taxes for at least some Illinoisans by instituting a graduated income tax. That would take an amendment to the Illinois Constitution. Wheeler and Mackey pointed out that he has not yet specified what tax rates he would support, so it's impossible to know how many people would see their taxes go up under his proposal, and if some would in fact see a tax cut.
Right before the INBA Convention, former Republican Senate Caucus member Sam McCann announced he would be running for governor as a Conservative Party candidate in November. With his late addition to the race, Mackey said McCann has to find 25,000 people who didn't vote in the primary to sign petitions to put him on the ballot.
Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan has been the Speaker of the House for all but two years since 1983. Madigan has said he will not campaign for anyone in the governor's race. As seen in Rauner's ads across the state, the Republican incumbant continues to call out the speaker. But as Mackey stated in the panel, Madigan is only in charge of one chamber of one third of government in Illinois.
Wheeler ended the session with discussing the Illinois budget. As we have seen in years past, our leaders have struggled to pass a balanced budget. One word that is in the Illinois constitution that has been a loophole in the budget process is the word "estimated." Legislators can only pass a budget that spends an amount equal to "estimated" revenues, which has given them a lot of wiggle room in the past. According to Wheeler, Illinois has too many major funds opened instead of having just one big fund like a checkbook.
What makes Wheeler believe there is a better chance of passing a budget in 2018 is election year? "No one wants to go home on an election year without a budget. We didn't get it done, but vote for me."
Make sure to use your rights as a citizen and vote. Pay attention to politics in Illinois and be prepared for drama. Would you expect anything else in Illinois?
Emily Manley was selected as this spring's INBA Convention Fellow. She is a student in the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois-Springfield. She is also a part-time producer at KMOV-TV in St Louis.