Hughes hopes clock runs out on Democrats' 'grand bargain'
Even if a “grand bargain” budget is passed this legislative session, it “will not help the people of Illinois,” Patrick Hughes vowed on a recent broadcast of radio show "Illinois Rising."
Hughes, co-host with Dan Proft and co-founder of the Illinois Opportunity Project, talked about rumors that the legislature could still pass a set of budget bills before the session ends May 31.
Proft is a principal of Local Government Information Services, which owns this publication.
“They give some reforms that appear like they’d be something on a campaign ad, but they’d offer no structural advantage,” Hughes said, adding that the issue will factor into the 2018 gubernatorial primary race between Democrats and Gov. Bruce Rauner. “If we get a grand bargain, it’s because Rauner panicked, capitulated, and said, 'I’m going to try and fight and live through another day, say I got a budget, say I got it accomplished, and run against J.B. Pritzker or [Chris] Kennedy on that basis.' ”
Hughes thinks if a “grand bargain” passes, it will do what it has always done: raise taxes in the state and allow lawmakers to spend money the state doesn’t have. He said the prospects for passing a grand bargain budget are not good and he hopes it doesn’t pass because it would only make Democrats in the legislature happy.
The co-hosts discussed Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza's comments about the state budget crisis, in which she blamed the lack of budget responsible for the deaths of residents.
"This is no joke. This is not a false alarm," Mendoza said in reference to 16-month-old Semaj Crosby, who died in Chicago while in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services. "We, the comptroller's office, are operating not on an empty tank of money, but literally on fumes. People are dying and they will continue to die in greater numbers across the state if we don't get to a budget resolution immediately."
The governor's office has said the child's death wasn't related to the budget and criticized Mendoza for politicizing a tragedy.
Mendoza, a Democrat who beat Rauner-appointed candidate Leslie Geissler Munger in a special election last fall, and Rauner have blamed each other for the impasse. The Chicago Tribune reported Rauner thinks Mendoza wants a government shutdown.
“It's clear they're working to create a crisis, shut down the government, cause a crisis and then force a tax hike or more stopgaps that'll force a tax hike later without any changes,” Rauner said. “That's what's going on."
The budget bargain calls for raising taxes on retirement income, excluding Social Security, merging the Chicago’s Teachers’ Pension Fund with the State Teachers’ Pensions Funds, and borrowing $9 billion to help cover the state's unpaid bills, which could approach $20 billion by the end of next year if the state doesn't pass a full budget, Illinois Homepage reported.
Illinois has gone two years without a budget as Rauner heads into the final year of his first term — an issue that will play a major role in the 2018 election. Hughes hopes the gubernatorial primary race will be competitive. In addition to Pritzker and Kennedy, the Democratic field includes Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) and Rep. Scott Drury (D-Highwood).
“Rauner can coast through the primary without any announced or major opposition,” Hughes said. “I think Pritzker is in the lead right now.”