Terry Steczo and Maureen Mulhall
Let the Games Begin
From the election of 2008 until the election of 2012 there was
nearly a 60% turnover in the members of the Illinois General Assembly. That meant a lot of time and effort has been
spent in 2013 getting to know the many new legislators and beginning to
establish relationships with them. The
election of 2014 is already shaping up to provide another significant turnover,
at least in the House of Representatives.
To date, three Representatives have already resigned and their
replacements appointed. They include:
Rep. Jaime Andrade, Jr.(D-Chicago) replacing Rep. Deb Mell who was
appointed to the Chicago city council when her father retired.
Rep. John Anthony (R-Plainfield) has been appointed to replace
Rep.Pam Roth (R-Morris) who has resigned to move to Texas when her husband’s
Rep. Brian Steward (R-Freeport) was appointed to replace Rep. Jim
Sacia (R-Freeport) who retired.
House Republicans have elected Rep. James Durkin (R-Western
Springs) as their new leader. Former Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) will
not seek re-election to the House, opting to run instead for State Treasurer.
He will retain his seat in the House until the end of his term. Other Representatives who will not be
returning to the House are Mike Bost (R-Carbondale), Brad Halbrook
(R-Shelbyville), Kay Hatcher (R-Yorkville), Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana), Renee
Kosel (R-New Lenox), JoAnn Osmond (R-Antioch), Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst),
Timothy Schmitz (R-Batavia), Darlene Senger (R-Naperville), and Jill Tracy
(R-Mt. Sterling). As it stands today, a
full 25% of the House Republicans will not be returning after the 2014 general
election. Will the Democrats be able to
take advantage of this turnover and gain an even larger majority in the House,
or will the Republicans hold on to the 47 seats they currently have? Stay tuned for election night 2014.
autumn the General Assembly returns to Springfield for "veto session”. The purpose of veto session is for the
General Assembly to take action on the Governor’s vetoed bills and those he
amendatorily vetoed. Of the 595 bills
that passed both the House and the Senate and went to the Governor for his action,
there are 4 bills for the Legislature to consider during veto session. They could dispatch with those 4 bills within
2 days rather than the 6 that are scheduled.
So how will the General Assembly spend their time during veto
session? With billions of dollars at
stake, all eyes are on the Conference Committee that has met over the summer to
develop "the pension solution”. With the
March primary looming in front of them, legislators are keenly interested in putting
this issue to rest and taking it away as a campaign issue for their
opponents. Veto session is scheduled for
October 22-24 and November 5-7. Time is
running out if legislators don’t want to read about their inability to solve
this problem on a campaign mailing during the March primary.
Elephant in the Room
Governor and his agencies are in the midst of preparing the FY ’15 budget. Even though the first quarter of the 2014
fiscal year is barely behind us, the agencies have already started crunching
numbers for FY ’15 and some of those numbers may not be too pretty. The "temporary income tax increase” is set to
expire on January 1, 2015, half way through the FY ’15 budget year. The expiration of the tax increase means
there would be $3.5 billion less revenue available in FY ’15, with $7.5 billion
less in FY ’16 when the full year effect of loss of revenues is felt. Even if pension reform frees up $1 billion,
the budgeteers have a very large hole to fill.
The legislature has shown in the past that
it can be pretty wily when it comes to budget shortfalls. Portions of this
fiscal year’s budget were lump summed so agency officials would have to make
difficult decisions on how the negotiated AFSCME pay raises were to be paid.
The legislature specifically did not appropriate the funds for those raises,
arguing that they had no input in the negotiations. Chances are they will do
lump sums again for FY 2015 urging State departments to use spending restraint
in the first six months of the year, until final decisions on how to handle the
temporary tax are addressed post-election. Legislators will have the luxury of
some time to be able to make decisions and determine a course of action.
On the other hand, Governor Quinn will not
have the luxury of time and will face a possible perplexing dilemma early in
the new year. Landmines and controversy
are not something any candidate looks forward to in the midst of any election
campaign, but a quirk of the calendar could give him one. Illinois law requires
a governor to submit a budget the legislature by the third Wednesday in
February, February 19, 2014. One month before the primary election … and with a
$2 billion or more shortfall looming. Does he cut and anger a good portion of
his base? Does he call for a tax extension? Answers to these questions,
obviously, will be known in time. But, as debate on pension reform, the impact
of the Affordable Care Act and other fiscal issues begin to be discussed, this
gargantuan slice of it will determine much of the other outcomes.