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Friday, May 8, 2015 05:53 pm


House Dems vote to fund targets of Rauner cuts


Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D–Chicago
Alan Kozeluh

The first pitch was a swing and a miss, but after that, Democrats in the Illinois House were swinging for the fences, passing amendment after amendment to a budget bill funding many of their priorities.

House Republicans were caught off-guard this week when Democrats introduced 16 floor amendments to House Bill 4141, an appropriations bill for the Governor’s Office of Budget and Management for fiscal year 2016. Most of the amendments provided funding for Department of Human Services programs that were cut in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget for 2016.

House speaker Michael Madigan, D–Chicago, came to the House floor personally to introduce the first amendment to the bill. Most of the Republicans were seeing the 124-page amendment, which in many ways resembled Gov. Rauner’s proposed budget, for the first time.

“The new governor has a different approach to budget-making than the last governor,” Madigan said. “I would say we ought to be prepared to adjust to this new set of circumstances, which is what we’re doing today.”

The amendments were put on the floor before legislative working groups were scheduled to meet and discuss the governor’s agenda. Once the amendment was introduced, the Republicans went into caucus to figure out what to do.

The first amendment was swiftly defeated with no yes votes. After the first amendment was defeated, 15 other amendments were swiftly shuffled through the rules committee and brought back to the House floor as quickly as possible (amendments have to wait at least an hour after passing the rules committee before being brought to the floor).

In the meantime, the Republicans went off to caucus again because, like the first amendment that was introduced, they didn’t have much time to look over the new amendments before having to debate and vote on them. Rep Ed Sullivan, R–Mundelein, said that between himself and his one staffer he was having trouble analyzing the amendments before the vote.

“I would actually like to see the budget that we’re voting on more than an hour in advance,” Sulllivan said, after being offered another staffer from the Democratic side.

Republicans decried the move as a way to shut them out of the budget-making process. They repeatedly compared the legislative maneuvering to playing political games with the budget.

They also contended that by skipping the committee process, Democrats were removing a level of transparency from the budget-making process.

“It is embarrassing to me, to all of us here, that we’re wasting our time and energy in such a form,” Sandack said. “This bill deserves the real process.”

The new amendments were brought by House Human Services Appropriation Committee Chair Greg Harris D-Chicago. He said that the time he spent in committee listening to people testify about how important programs for autism and child care assistance were to them was more than enough public input to feel good about moving forward with the amendments.

“It is not a mystery, what is in this bill, and there’s been ample opportunity for the people to speak,” Harris said.

Amendments two through nine were added onto the bill Wednesday, collectively they amount to $1.6 billion dollars in spending. Most of them funded programs that were cut in Gov. Rauner’s proposed budget.

Harris said that the people of Illinois aren’t going to be too concerned about how they got the budget items passed, so much as what they passed.

“We’ve heard a lot today about process,” Harris said. “We might have our battles back and forth across the aisle, but at the end of the day, the folks back home are counting on us for outcomes.”

Contact Alan Kozeluh at intern@illinoistimes.com.


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