Illinois now has the dubious distinction of having failed to pass the state budget, in a timely manner, for the second straight year. Ordinarily, the only constitutionally required action for a state legislature is to pass an operating budget.
Depending upon your political perspective, failure to pass the budget is either a result of principle or an exercise in petulance. This Spring, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner insisted that any budget accord must be conditioned upon, what he called, improvements in the state’s business climate to include changes to union friendly and workers’ compensation laws. The Democratic controlled legislature refused to negotiate on these non-budget items. And the Democratic House passed a budget that was $700 million out of balance and included provisions that were unacceptable to the Governor.
Now that the May 31st deadline has passed, any budget accord must be passed by a super majority. It remains to be seen whether Governor Rauner will agree to a pass a budget without other non-budget items or whether the Democrats will agree to a balanced budget.
Upon the failure to meet the May 31st deadline, Governor Rauner, flanked by scowling and grim faced legislative allies, decried the failure to pass a budget which mostly resulted from his insistence that non-budget items be included.
Governor Rauner may want to take a lesson from Maryland and other states which, over time, effected meaningful workers’ compensation reform. Starting in the late 1980s, Maryland went from a high premium state to a low premium state (now #35) by creating a special legislative committee (Joint Oversight Committee on Workers’ Compensation Insurance and Benefits) consisting of all interested parties to review all proposed laws and issues relating to workers’ compensation. Over time, the Maryland situation improved dramatically, all without unfairness to any group.
The choice, Gov. Rauner, is press conference or progress. In politics, compromise and taking “half a loaf” can add up. Of course, angry press conferences may serve political objectives when progress is not really desired.