Illinois is beginning its third year without a budget. Developing an annual, balanced budget is the most important thing a chief executive is expected to accomplish. But not, apparently, in Illinois.
I’m pretty not confident,” the BGA’s Madeleine Doubek tells us.. “I think there is no sign of any real interest in truly doing the job of governing versus doing the job of making sure we’re all set up and have our hits ready for the next election. And that truly is (as Fox32’s Mike Flannery said yesterday), immoral and depraved, because we are destroying our state, and the irony to me is that not enough people seem to really be tuned into this and care.”
The list of State services and operations grinding to a complete halt is too long to list here. But its newest additions now include road construction and the lottery.
And Doubek, who’s just started in her new job as Director of Policy and Community Engagement at the BGA, says we can’t forget the social services that have been crushed for more than two years. “We’re not helping. We’re not offering counseling for rape victims. We’re not taking care of funding some breast examinations for women. The entire Medicare system is fighting for dollars and cents. We have nearly $15-billion in unpaid bills, which is almost half, it’s about about 40% of what the state typically spends in a year, and those are bills and money owed to people who have already done work for the State of Illinois and provided services, and they are having to wait months to have a chance to be paid,” she laments.
We ask how it is that the Governor continues to fight so strenuously for two of his signature issues – a property tax freeze and revisions to the state’s workers’ compensation laws. It’s especially perplexing since the state doesn’t get any of those property taxes.
Doubek says Rauner’s talking mainly to suburbanites when he talks property taxes, because theirs are often the highest in the state. And revising Worker’s comp is also popular with some supporters.
” One of his other constituencies is the business community,” she explains, “and so I think that he feels like he has to be able to go to them and say, “I got something for you that you have been concerned about and complaining about for years, and it is true that Illinois’s rates are much higher than surrounding states, and so that is… You know at some point, maybe two years ago that was more of a legitimate issue than it is now, right, but now we’re to the point where really, you know. The house is burning.”
And at this point, she says, businesses probably have bigger worries. “Here’s what the Governor ought to be able to go say to the business community, “I got a budget done. Now we know at least for the next year what taxes are going to look like, so maybe you have a little more stability than you’ve had for the past two years. And maybe we can start chipping away at all this debt and get to a point where you feel like you can create a new job or two Mr. Businessman.”
So why is it so impossible to forge a budget? Doubek says she doubts that either Rauner of Speaker Madigan actually wants a budget because it’s politically advantageous for each to blame the other. But she says Rauner made a major miscalculation about the scope of his job right from the beginning.
“I think in the case of Governor Rauner he took it several steps too far by coming right out of his inauguration’s remarks and taking off around the state trashing labor, and trying to take some steps to curb labor power in the State of Illinois that just were never really going to fly. And in the process he destroyed any sort of goodwill or trust that he may have been able to achieve with his Democratic opponents, when he should have known that he was going to need them at some point in order to succeed,” she asserts.
And forging a budget at this point could probably be easier than everyone thinks, if only there was the determination to do it. “I think if you and I were sitting in the Governor’s office around a table right now trying to hammer out a budget we could probably have it done in a couple of hours with the help of some terrific staff members,” she jokes. “And I think that it could be done in this case, but there simply is not the will and we’re in a situation where Governor Rauner from his perspective is trying to keep every bit of leverage he thinks he has…”
Which brings us to the 2018 election. Doubek says she thinks there’s a chance that Rauner will face some serious primary opposition.
“I’m not quite sure where that’s coming from, somewhere in Downstate or central Illinois perhaps. Maybe somebody in the legislature. There was a hint at one point that one of the state senators from around the Springfield area kind of hinted at that who has got some Union support might try something. And so I think Rauner is aware of that and concerned about it, or at least is being a little bit cautious because of it. I think you have to say that it’s going to be an uphill battle for an incumbent Republican governor however to make the case that he has achieved much when he hasn’t been able to get a budget done in going into a third year.”
Turning to Mayor Emanuel, Doubek says he could be passing up an opportunity to be he mayor who finally initiates significant police reform, and that could be a historic mistake.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” she says. “And after the Laquan McDonald video came out I think that he… when you think about the arc of time in history I think he was very much concerned that his job might be in jeopardy at a few points there, and he obviously fired the police superintendent and we have a new one. But you know we’re hearing from a lot of other key players in the City of Chicago that not agreeing to this oversight is not acceptable. And the trust there has been completely shattered and the only way you’re going to get the trust back, the Inspector General Joe Ferguson is saying and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is saying is to have that federal oversight that you agreed to with the Obama administration. And so if he’s somehow able to get around that and avoid that I think that would be quite an achievement, because I don’t think we’re well on our way to rebuilding the trust between the black communities where all the violence is happening and the Police Department.”
And finally, a word about journalism. Prior to going the BGA, Doubek was a journalist and editor for many years. “My wish would be that all of the people out there who are not happy with the way our politics and government is going would step back for five seconds and think about what it is that makes them understand and appreciate that their governments and our politics are not working, and it’s good fact-based journalism.”
You can listen to this show on SoundCloud here:SoundCloud here:
and you can read a complete transcript of the show HERE:CN transcript June 29 2017