Moments after conceding a close election, outgoing Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn vowed to fight for a minimum wage hike before leaving office — but whether lawmakers follow through or pursue other major issues before Republican governor-elect Bruce Rauner takes over is far from certain.
During a post-victory statewide tour, Rauner asked lawmakers not to tackle major issues before he’s in charge. Some legislative leaders and experts predict that’ll be the case during this month’s scheduled veto session or the so-called lame-duck session in January, a time when lawmakers are more likely to consider controversial bills. Still, last-minute plans could materialize if Democrats, who have majorities in the House and Senate, decide to cram through proposals ahead of the first Republican arriving in the governor’s office in more than a decade.
“There’s going to be a lot of feeling our way on both sides,” Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said. “Clearly this is a huge change for the state, to have a two-party system back in play.”
The agenda for the veto session scheduled to start Nov. 19 includes a hearing on Illinois’ school funding formula, and one Democratic lawmaker says he’ll try for an override of Quinn’s veto of ridesharing legislation. There’s also potential for House Speaker Michael Madigan’s plan to separate the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum from a state agency. Otherwise, expectations are few: The Senate has already scaled back session days. Also, the rules are stricter, with legislation needing a three-fifths majority to take effect immediately.
Beyond that, prospects also appear to be dwindling for Democrats to push for an extension of the 2011 income tax increase, which rolls back next year and eventually leaves Illinois billions of dollars short in revenue. Quinn wanted to keep the 5 percent rate permanent, instead of allowing it to dip to 3.75 percent as scheduled, claiming there’d be a major impact on schools and services.
But Rauner — who spent over a year blasting Quinn, Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton for the 2011 hike — wants to return the rate to its previous level of 3 percent within four years.
There were wide expectations that if Quinn won a second full term, Democrats would push for an extension of the tax increase in January. However, political experts anticipate it’s now unlikely ahead of Rauner’s first term.
“They don’t want to hand him a $4 billion a year gift on his way in that he can then hammer them on,” said Chris Mooney, a political studies professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “They can easily avoid it by just waiting for Rauner to get into office.”
The minimum wage question also looms, as voters responded favorably to a nonbinding ballot measure.
Increasing the rate to at least $10 from $8.25 was the bedrock of Quinn’s campaign, casting the issue as one of equality. Opponents questioned its impact on jobs. Rauner changed his stance several times during the campaign, but now says he supports an increase in conjunction with other reforms.
Rauner’s campaign has said he won’t work against Quinn’s efforts to solely raise the wage, and the voter response could be useful for reluctant lawmakers.
But political experts say the Democratic-controlled Capitol could have raised the wage earlier if there was political will, and lawmakers have little incentive to help shape Quinn’s legacy on his way out, partially because of his frosty-at-times relationship with the Legislature.
House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, who is a sponsor of the minimum wage bill, doesn’t anticipate much movement.
“We didn’t have the votes to do it in the spring and I’m not sure even though there was good support for it,” she said.
Quinn has kept a low profile since losing to Rauner by roughly 5 percentage points. His office didn’t return multiple requests for comment.
In his brief remarks Wednesday, he said he was pleased to see voters’ widespread support of the minimum wage ballot measure.
“I really look forward to working with the Legislature in the time I have left as governor to get that job done,” he said. “I’m going to fight for that.”