Illinois state Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, on May 25 was trying to do his job representing us. He was given a few hours to review a 534-page budget delivered by House Speaker Mike Madigan that would have spent $7 billion more during 2017 than Illinois will have coming in.
His questions about budget line items, posed to Chicago Democrat and House Majority Leader Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, were captured in a video posted by the Illinois Policy Instutite that has been watched nearly 1 million times, been the subject of a Chicago Tribune editorial and is apparently resonating with Illinoisans because it captures what is so wrong with Springfield.
Whatever game Madigan is playing, he should take note that the video is being watched by people headed to the polls in November. It is in no way flattering to Madigan and Democrats, and is miffing that middle class Madigan would be taxing to overspend by $7 billion, regardless of how much he claims he only wants to tax the rich.
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What may be most amusing — or telling or frightening — is that Currie, in defending the deficit spending, gets exasperated and resorts to only answering “ditto” to Kay’s questions. He notes duplicate line items of $483,000 each for fair awards and premiums, $1.3 million for county fairground rehabilitation, $1.18 million for a breeders’ fund, $2.6 million for an undefined pilot program, $825,400 for agriculture contractual services and another $476,500 for the same item.
His list goes on and he keeps asking if these are priorities in a state that is penniless, or whether Currie has even read the document that is more than two inches thick.
Currie responds: “Clearly some people have thought over the years that the state fairs are valuable and I can only say one more time representative, “Ditto,” and may I just suggest to the chair and to the body that if you’re going to go through the budget with one line after another, my answer will continue to be “Ditto” and I don’t know that that is a useful expenditure of scarce legislative time.”
Then Kay finishes it: “Here’s the problem and I won’t, I won’t, put the body through this. It’s pretty obvious you’ve never run a business. You’ve never had to account for money and debt has no impact on you whatsoever, especially when it has to do with taxpayer funds. I’m not going to go through this. This is simply embarrassing.”
The Illinois House then went on to pass the $7 billion deficit budget. Voting for it were state Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson, D-East St. Louis, Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, and Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton.
Each of the four representatives was called and sent an e-mail asking about their support for the Madigan budget. Jackson and Hoffman did not respond.
Costello said most of the bill was school funding, including $5.5 million more for schools in his district. “I remain committed to working toward a bipartisan, balanced budget compromise that will ensure that our schools will open on time, our local governments are paid their fair share and vendors and social service agencies who contract with the state do not close.”
Beiser said he, too, wants to work toward budget reductions and requiring millionaires to pay more. “I refuse to balance the budget on the backs of hard-working, middle-class families.”
At least the Illinois Senate didn’t have the stomach to again spend what Illinois doesn’t have. The bill failed there, so Gov. Bruce Rauner never was forced to veto it.
So here we are entering the dog days of summer: Madigan was to call lawmakers to Springfield once a week, but canceled the first one. The budget working groups were recently packed with Madigan supporters and are making no progress, or “slow rolling” as Rauner calls it.
The prison chief is crying for funds. Moody’s just rated Illinois two notches above junk bond status. The state comptroller warned $23 billion for schools, 911 call centers, domestic violence shelters, social and human services and higher education all halt in July without a budget.
You have to wonder what is wrong with these people who are willing to let the state crash with schoolchildren and the poor taking the brunt of the impact? But then you watch the video and the answer is plain.