Fracking Decision Deadline Near
the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) met on October 14 to discuss
a decision on fracking rules there was some expectation that they would punt
until after the Tuesday’s election. The absolute deadline for making a decision
is November 15 and they are scheduled to meet once before that date, November
6. The rules were under formulation for months and under consideration by JCAR
since the summer. The question now is whether or not JCAR will risk having to
start the rules process all over again by rejecting what they have before them.
the original drat rules were published by the Illinois Department of Natural
Resources (IDNR) there were over 35,000 comments by fracking opponents. And,
since the law says that each comment must be responded to separately it took
months to get that accomplished and get on with the process. A second go-round
will not be any easier. And the IDNR Director indicated recently that he will
not issue any permits unless final rules are adopted and in place.
Also, adding to the drama, a few
weeks ago a group of land owners who sold property leases to drillers filed a
law suit alleging they were being deprived of their property’s value.
Regardless of what happens at the
November 6 JCAR meeting someone is not going to be happy, but the fracking
legislation that was approved by the legislature many moons ago was the product
of a long negotiations process that resulted in an agreement among all the
divergent interests … at least at that time. IDNR spent months trying to get
the rules right, and even though both sides of the issue have complained about
the final product, there’s probably little chance that JCAR is going to cast
that work product aside to start from scratch. There is every expectation that
the rules will be approved on November 6, maybe with some direction from JCAR
to the General Assembly as to fixes the might be pursued in the veto session or
Winner Is …
another brutal election campaign draws to a close.
stark differences in positions have been espoused by each of the candidates for
governor. It’s very apparent that there is extreme dislike on both sides as the
extremely negative tone of television ads and tenor in their debates has shown.
But through that rubble voters are going to have to look through all of the
"noise” and focus their attention on who they feel will be able to best lead
the state during the next four years, fiscally and otherwise. And, of course,
taxes and revenues will be front and center.
Quinn threw down the tax gauntlet last March in his budget message that called
for making the temporary income tax permanent … what some called a "gutsy”
move, others called "suicidal”, and yet others called a "Hail Mary pass” … a last
ditch effort to try to snatch victory from the grasp of almost certain defeat.
Politicians traditionally stay away from any talk about raising taxes on the
campaign trail like a hot potato so the Governor’s move was quite
extraordinary. The fact that he hasn’t backed away from that stance and
continues to push while the race itself is within the margin of error is fairly
significant. It also means that what some had predicted about the outcome of
the race being a referendum on taxes may actually come to pass, regardless of
the margin of the outcome next week. When the smoke clears on Election Day
pundits will interpret the results as a victory for either the candidate who
wanted to keep the tax or the one who doesn’t. Period. Regardless of the
nuances the positions each has staked out that’s the way the results of the
race will be interpreted and that’s what the legislature will no doubt look at
when making any significant policy considerations during the remaining weeks of
who will win? With just a few days left before Election Day the race is a
virtual tossup. Four years ago Quinn won a squeaker, sneaking by state Sen.
Bill Brady by a handful of votes. The closeness of that race has been
characterized by some as a post-Blagojevich voter hangover that almost took
down Quinn in a state that has been become more and more "blue” in the last 20
years. But the last four years have not brought an end to the fiscal tsunami
that Illinois has experienced during and since the Great Recession. State debt
is down by half, unemployment is edging downward but, on the other hand, the
stack of unpaid bills is hovering somewhere between $4-$6 billion, pension
reform legislation that took forever to enact looks like a goner in the courts,
and there seems to be a general malaise about state’s leadership and its
ability to solve problems. Enter Bruce Rauner. With the resources to self fund
his campaign (to the tune of almost $30 million thus far) and access to other
deep pockets, he has been able to compete and offer a competing vision that he
hopes will resonate with voters. While Rauner’s plans for Illinois offer
incomplete details and more questions than answers, the closeness of the race
evidenced thus far in pre-election polling suggests that confidence in the
current leadership is lacking and a change, regardless of how incomplete the
picture, may be in order.
a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into winning an election. Beyond the
debates and television ads each of the campaigns have been spending countless
hours and dollars trying to identify which supportive voters they can count on
… and making arrangement to make sure that by the time the polls close on
November 4 that as many of them as possible have make the trek to their polling
places to cast their votes. In close races successful GOTV (Get Out The Vote)
efforts make the difference between election night parties and crying towels.
Democrats have always depended on GOTV efforts on election days and the GOP,
assisted by Rauner resources, is trying to establish a ground game this year.
GOTV efforts have a lot to do with candidates often looking past published
polls and declaring, "The only poll that counts is the one on Election Day”.
That may ring very true this year.
thing for certain, since being given up for dead just a few months ago a win by
Pat Quinn will be categorized, without a doubt, as miraculous. In the Catholic
Church two miracles qualify someone for sainthood. Quinn is Catholic. Some wags
might try to convince Pope Frances that two improbable squeaker wins by Quinn
should qualify. But any ability to reach into any supernatural bag of tricks
would best be focused on the conundrum of getting the state back on track.
That’s where the state could really use a miracle.
has unapologetically insisted that the temporary tax increase, scheduled to
sunset on January 1, be made permanent. If he wins expect him to renew the call
for the legislature to act to do exactly that. A Quinn win would also be a signal
to legislators that voters agree. Quinn made a comment during as debate with
Rauner that he expects the legislature to act in November or December on taxes.
Wrong. The legislature may, in fact, act on the tax issue but that will never
happen before January 1. Any action before the new year would require a
three-fifths vote for any legislative action to be effective immediately. After
January 1 that requirement drops to a majority. Big difference. Three-fifths
supporting the tax increase (71 House/36Senate) just isn’t there regardless of
the veto-proof size of the Democratic majorities. A Constitutional majority
(60/30) could be. There are fourteen days in January before the current
legislative session adjourns and it’s a good bet that most major policy actions
needed by the legislature won’t happen until then.
has demanded that win or lose Quinn not call the tax issue for a vote during
the post-election sessions. What Quinn does or doesn’t want really is moot
because it’s going to be the legislative leaders that decide if/when action on
a tax bill will take place, and if Quinn loses they may not be so disposed.
Would Quinn push for an extension of the higher tax rate even if he loses? He
might, but legislative leaders may not be so inclined. But a Quinn win would be
a signal that voters understand the state’s need for more revenue and almost
guarantees successful consideration of the tax issue in January. Rank and file
legislators may demand an extension of the higher rate rather than permanency,
something the leaders may not prefer, but either way the higher rates will be
in place for at least a while longer. If Quinn loses, the leaders almost
certainly will look for a signal as to what Rauner’s intentions may be and then
may or may not decide to move forward with whatever it is he may want prior to
from policy and revenue issues Quinn will have to begin the process of
reviewing his Cabinet and making a determination as to whether or not any
changes will be needed. It’s too early to tell whether or not any changes will
be widespread, but movement almost always does occur after elections when
agency heads determine whether they’ve had enough or the governor determines
he’s had enough of them.
November 4 victory by Bruce Rauner is a definite possibility. If that does
occur it would be reminiscent of the line in the song "Won’t Get Fooled Again”
by The Who … "The change it had to come. We knew it all along.” And he’ll have
four years to achieve his "vision” and extricate the state from its fiscal
doldrums and general melancholy. To do that he’s going to need lots of help
from the GOP faction in the General Assembly in addition to the expected
Democratic majorities and that’s where things can get extremely touchy.
addition to creating a Transition Team and identifying who he feels should be
pushing some of the state agency "levers” he’s going to have to make some
decisions on some major policy and revenue issues almost immediately. And since
the majorities in each legislative chamber will most probably remain Democratic
he’s going to have to reach out and make nice since he’s going to need at their
support to advance policy initiatives and get appointments approved. He’s
tempered his remarks since the primary but he also is going to have to be very
careful not to alienate the GOP faithful by playing too nice. There’s going to
be a lot expected from him because he’s created his "Shake Up Springfield”
mantra that the public is going to expect him to deliver. If he wins the public
is going to expect Scott Walker. What they don’t want is Dan Walker. Rauner had
better show up in Springfield with a figurative helmet and flak jacket because
regardless of which of the two he winds up emulating it’s going to be a tug-of-war
first major decision a Governor-elect Rauner will have to face is whether or
not to ask for an early extension of the income tax increase. The additional
$1.6 billion in revenue could make his first six months in office a lot less
trying, but it would also cause a firestorm and he would pay a huge price both
in incredibility GOP legislative and party support, plus the public at large.
Twice during Jim Thompson’s tenure as Governor he campaigned on no tax
increases only to change his mind once the election was over. He pulled it off
each time but times have changed dramatically since then. Rauner has already
insinuated in his position papers that he wants to extend the higher tax rate
temporarily. The tax is already schedule to expire on December 31 of this year.
Rauner’s position papers specify that he wants to phase out the tax increase,
but the only way to phase out a tax that’s already set to expire is by
extending it. The question is whether he’s willing to write off the $1.6
billion lost to the tax expiring during the first six months of the fiscal year
and then work with the new legislature to reinstitute it beginning July 1? That
doesn’t make for consistent fiscal policy, and also considerably lessens the
odds of succeeding.
Rauner might ultimately decide to wait until the new legislative term to make a
final decision of both income taxes and expansion of service and sales taxes
that he has suggested, many observers have come to the opinion that the state
simply can’t lose the $3.2 billion in the short term that would lost if the tax
increase went away all together. It will be a herculean challenge to convince
members of the GOP caucus to support any of these initiatives, temporary or
otherwise. With Democratic control of the governor’s office and legislature for
the last twelve years the Republican delegation has been content to let
Democrats make all the tough decisions, including on revenue and tax issues.
With one of their own in the governor’s chair that whole dynamic changes.
Democrats won’t be planning to vote for anything unless a goodly number of
Republicans are on board first. That will be a very bumpy road and provide a
true test of Rauner’s leadership capabilities. Republican legislators will be
skittish about voting for anything even perceived as increasing taxes or
spending for fear of a primary election challenge. It will be a Governor
Rauner’s job to change the attitude of many GOP legislators who are far closer
to the Tea Party in philosophy. And that’s the trap a Governor Rauner will have
to try to avoid. Blaming any policy failures on lack of Democratic support when
your own party won’t touch it won’t play well. Governing requires the right
balance of resoluteness and submissiveness. How well and quickly a Governor-elect
Rauner creates that balance may determine the ultimate success of his term of
are relevant dates for the legislative session:
- November 19, 20, 21 – first veto
- December 2, 3, 4 – second
veto session week