SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said Friday that Democrats need to approve a series of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda” bills before they will talk about adding taxes to plug a $6 billion budget hole.
Radogno, the chief sponsor of five bills representing Rauner’s agenda filed Friday in the Senate, said the proposed legislation reflects a compromise from the governor’s office that includes input from Democrats.
“People of this state have to really come to grips with the fact that we cannot continue down the road we’ve been going down,” Radogno said. “May 31 can come and go, but the problem is we have to change direction. That’s what this ‘Turnaround Agenda’ is about.”
Asked if the bills reflect the areas the governor insists must be changed before discussing a tax increase, Radogno said: “Yes, he has been very clear . . . reform before revenue. He has never said revenue is off the table.”
The bills — which will simultaneously work through the House and Senate — ask for term limits on elected officials, reform to the way legislative boundaries are drawn, a property-tax freeze, reform on awards on lawsuits and workers’ compensation reform.
With a May 31 deadline to pass a budget, Democrats have called the move by Republicans too little, too late.
“Dropping them on us at the last minute [and saying], ‘You’ve got five days, take it or leave it. Vote for it, or you’re here all summer.’ That process stinks,” said state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, in a Friday debate over workers’ compensation reform. “Tick tock, people. Tick tock. And if the governor is listening: please file your bills. Please. File. Your. Bills. We would like to discuss them. We would like to debate them. We would like to negotiate them. We can’t negotiate with something that isn’t in written form. At least now we have something in written form.”But Republicans say they’ve attempted negotiating for months in private working groups set up by the governor that saw a drop-off in participation by Democrats. Rauner presented a budget in February that included no options for more revenue but proposed severe cuts to higher education, Medicaid and other social services. Rauner’s office pulled back on a bid to create right-to-work “empowerment zones” in the state that aimed to erode power of organized unions. That happened after a right-to-work bill was called in the House last week and failed to win even one “yes” vote.“Governor Rauner has made clear that reform is essential,” said Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly. “We can’t ask taxpayers to put more money into a broken system.”Radogno said the bigger deadline is June 30 — when Chicago Public Schools must pay a $600 million pension bill and needs the state’s help to do it.Democrats, meanwhile, say the reforms Rauner is seeking benefit corporations and the elite, and not working people.They’ve asked Rauner for weeks to put his initiatives into legislative language so they could publicly discuss the bills. Absent that, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, lifted language from Rauner’s public “Turnaround Agenda” and called a series of votes, including on right-to-work and workers’ comp. Rauner dismissed those votes as “political theater.”Senate Democratic spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said Friday that three of Radogno’s bills have already been assigned to committees. Two others that deal with constitutional amendments, one asking for term limits and the remap bill, are in an assignments committee where 15 other constitutional amendment bills are housed.
“We typically do not hear constitutional amendments in the first year of a General Assembly,” she said. Had a proposal to tax millionaires passed the Illinois House on Thursday, it too would be held in that committee, she said.
Phelon said one recent exception was made when Democrats moved to add a recall amendment in the wake of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s criminal arrest.
Meanwhile, Democrats continue to work on their own budget. The Sun-Times has previously reported that the budget will look more like a spending plan that prioritizes where state revenue should go but leaves the option to increase taxes up to Rauner.