Politics trumps good policy during Senate budget hearing

Weeks of negotiations on a path to filling the $1.6 billion budget hole left by former Gov. Quinn were placed in jeopardy when Senate Democrats placed politics before the process of identifying a real solution to the fiscal crisis that they helped create.

Senate Democrats threw a wrench into ongoing negotiations between legislative leaders and Gov. Rauner when they attempted to muscle through a funding proposal that wouldn’t even have solved the problem.

Their efforts to move $580 million out of the Road Fund and other special-use funds drew criticism from the Governor and Senate Republican lawmakers who said the Democrats’ bill contained the same type of short-term thinking that caused the current funding crisis. Additionally, the bill didn’t grant spending authority over the funds that would be swept, leaving no clear path to disperse the funds to agencies facing shortfalls.  

Deputy Senate Republican Leader Matt Murphy called the effort, a “distraction from the negotiations that need to occur for the comprehensive solution to be brought together” and Gov. Rauner issued a statement decrying the move, saying “it does not even solve the major crises that will occur at the end of this month.”

Senate Democrat lawmakers readily admit they passed former Gov. Quinn’s budget despite knowing it would not adequately fund state programs for an entire fiscal year. Daycare providers, correctional officers and court reporters were among the first people to feel the crunch from the shortfall; some programs have already run out of money and correctional institutions have cautioned they will not be able to make payroll in the coming weeks. Unless a funding solution is identified, additional agencies will soon begin to run out of money to make payroll.

Though Democrat members on the committee advanced the measure, the weekly legislative session adjourned without the proposal being brought before the full Senate body for consideration. 

Chapin Rose

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