In face of criticism, Cullerton continues to push for 'grand bargain' budget deal
Senate President John Cullerton has put all his colleagues on notice of their call to duty, as his push for a “grand bargain” solution to Illinois’ nearly two-year budget impasse grows more contentious.
As members prepared to leave Springfield and return home for a cooling-off period, Cullerton took to the debate floor to let them know the heat was just beginning.
“When the senate returns the week of Feb. 7, everybody should be ready and prepared to take a vote,” Cullerton said.
As part of their grand bargain, Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Minority leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) have proposed a compromise deal replete with income and corporate tax hikes as well as billions in additional borrowing.
Not surprisingly, many of their colleagues rejected the plan amid tense early negotiations.
“I am offended and insulted by this effort to raise taxes even higher,” Republican Sen. Kyle McCarter told the DuPage Policy Journal. “We tried this years ago and hundreds of thousands of taxpayers left Illinois. The problem is people on both sides of the aisle are getting very creative on how they can tax people more instead of making tough choices and doing what it takes to end big government.”
Indeed, criticism of the proposal has been as blunt as it has been fierce, with Mark Glennon of the conservative news source WirePoints going so far as to suggest Radogno may have been conned into aligning herself with the far more polished Cullerton.
“The simple fact is, she’s not the one to be negotiating something so complicated with someone so cunning as Senate President Cullerton and the Democrats,” he told the Chicago City Wire. “The package is a bad collection of items and lacks in long-term vision.”
In the end, Glennon insisted, even such a "grand bargain" may not be enough to stop the flood of taxpayers and businesses fleeing the region nor curtail the rise of pension reform issues now crippling the state.
Then there is Republican State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), so outraged she felt compelled to pen an opinion piece in the DuPage Policy Journal blasting Cullerton and his Senate supporters as “out of touch with taxpayers here in Illinois.”
Ives further branded the marathon negotiating sessions that have played out over the last several weeks as a prime example of how the inmates are now running the asylum. She highlighted her own belief that the same leaders who ushered in the mess are now the very ones pushing for the right to lead the cleanup -- with even more faulty efforts.
Through it all, Cullerton has encouraged more of his colleagues to have the courage to join him in the crusade.
“We've made progress that once seemed impossible, that’s encouraging,” he said. “The problems we face are more difficult each day, they’re not going away.”
That is precisely why so many observers have asserted the first few hours of the resumed session will be critical to the question: will there truly be a "grand bargain" compromise, or any solution at all, going forward?
In the interest of progress, Cullerton and Radogno refrained from including Gov. Bruce Rauner or House Speaker Michael Madigan in their early talks. The two men have been locked in a bitter standoff that has grown personal at times.
All the while, Rauner has insisted that changes to lower workers’ compensation costs and language to weaken unions and lower property taxes be part of any compromise, all measures that Madigan has rejected as nonstarters for the purposes of balancing the state’s budget.
Now, the real fireworks are set to ignite.