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Name of the game is lame duck as Budget Session ends

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The Illinois General Assembly delivered a fiscal year 2015 budget for Governor Pat Quinn to sign yesterday. But, according to Quinn, “the General Assembly didn’t get the job done on the budget. There’s more work to do to continue moving Illinois forward.”

When the Illinois General Assembly declined to make the 2011 temporary state income tax increase from 3 percent to 5 percent permanent last week nor support a budget with massive cuts to social services and education, the direction the budget negotiations were going to take became clear. The action will occur in the “lame duck” portion of the Veto Session in the fall - after the November 4th General Election. This move takes pressure off of incumbent legislators up for reelection, but also leaves Governor Quinn with trying to manage a state government with a $35.7 billion spending plan that has a number of challenges, such as:

• It will include one-time fixes such as borrowing $650 million from dedicated state funds that have to be paid back, with interest, in 18 months;

• Home services programs being reduced by $7.8 million;

• Community care programs for seniors being cut by $137 million;

• Subsidized child care programs for the working poor being reduced by $24 million;

• School districts getting approximately 89% of the state aid they expected to receive; and

• The Illinois Department of Corrections facing a $90 million budget reduction that could trigger layoffs as early as October, while the state prison population grows.

As it stands now, the temporary state income tax will revert to 3.75 percent on January 1, 2015. It is the primary cause of the above mentioned issues and it will be the key issue in the gubernatorial race between Quinn and Bruce Rauner. Governor Pat Quinn wants it to become permanent. Rauner does not. But, Rauner has so far refused to say what his plan is. At some point, in a debate or in a press conference, he will have to – and defend it. That is why with the budget out of the way, the biggest topic for Illinois Statehouse insiders is what exactly Rauner’s budget plan is. The more skeptical players are starting to question whether Rauner actually has a plan.

As a lead-in to the next phase of Illinois’ 98th General Assembly, some of the more intriguing aspects of this Budget Session were things that did not happen, including:

• The Cook County pension reform bill supported by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was not voted on;

• Once again, there was no movement on a Chicago casino bill;

• The legislature also didn’t take a vote on providing $100 million for the President Barack Obama library; and

• State Representative Derrick Smith didn’t get to vote on the budget. He was busy in court on a bribery charge.

Along with making the temporary income tax increase permanent, the first three will probably be changed in the Veto Session which starts on November 19th. The fourth one won’t.

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