Column: Hopes fading for ‘Grand Bargain’ in Springfield

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(Image provided by Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce & Industry)

After two legislative trips to Springfield three weeks apart in April, I am now resigned to the likelihood that both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly and first-term Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner will not reach a “Grand Bargain” on a state budget until after the next gubernatorial election in November of 2018.

John Quigley

On the other hand, the push by Democratic legislators in both the Senate and House of Representatives to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour may end up on the governor’s desk in the very near future.

Speaking at the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business annual Employer Action Day held at The Wyndham Hotel in Springfield on April 26, Gov. Rauner vowed to chamber and business representative from across the state that he would veto a $15 minimum wage. He also stated that he is open to a lesser increase if accompanied by cost-offsetting, pro-business legislation to freeze property taxes, lessen regulations and reform workers’ compensation to include causation.

While Gov. Rauner also reportedly plans to veto any Stop Gap Budget in hopes of securing a budget “Grand Bargain,” it’s unlikely he will, since the state-funded colleges and universities won’t have funding for the 2017-18 school year.

Gov. Rauner, who briefly visited Egg Harbor Café in Elmhurst on April 11, also wants to increase state funding for public education and for visitor and tourism, which is one the state’s few growth industries, returning $7 in tax revenue for every $1 invested.

During our April 5 six-chamber trip to Springfield, Republican State Sen. Kyle McCarter proposed a balanced budget based on the state’s $31.5 billion revenue projection and incorporating pieces of the Grand Bargain legislative package negotiated by Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno. Sen. McCarter’s proposal balances the state’s budget without an income tax increase or creation of a service tax – each of which could then be debated on their own merit and to determine what programs or services those additional revenues could fund.

On April 24, more than 390 public school district superintendents, including Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205’s Dr. David Moyer, issued a press release urging lawmakers and the Governor to pass a state budget. While Elmhurst’s public schools are funded primarily by local property tax dollars, the state owns District 205 some $3.6 million in reimbursement for busing and for special education.

In the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Ninth Edition of RICHSTATES, POOR STATES, Illinois is ranked 46th in the nation for economic performance based on variables such as income, property, sales and estate taxes, workers’ compensation costs, minimum wage and more. Illinois’ Economic Outlook Rank for 2017 is 43rd versus 40, 48, 48, 48, 44, 47 and 44 dating from 2015 back to 2009, respectively.

John Quigley is president and CEO of the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce and Industry

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