State Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno joined Dan & Amy this morning to explain why the General Assembly was unable to pass a state budget before the end of session on May 31 and what is likely to follow. Radogno called it an abdication of their duty for House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to both suggest that there will be no budget agreement before the November election.
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Dan Proft: Good morning, Dan and Amy, so no state budget, and no surprise that there’s no state budget, with supermajorities of democrats in the general assembly that, like Speaker Madigan, want to spend money we don’t have to the tune-up another 7 billion dollars. Where is Illinois financially right now? Well, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University just released their ranking of states fiscal condition and Illinois placed out of 50. Amy? Amy Jacobson: 49? Dan Proft: 47. Amy Jacobson: Oh, it’s a little bit better. Dan Proft: We shot past New Jersey, we’re coming for you, Kentucky, so great news there. 47, so that gives you an idea that what’s happening in Illinois, not happening throughout most of the rest of the nation, the overwhelming portion of the nation. And remember, the governor has been here for 15 months, and Madigan and Cullerton have been in Springfield for 40 years, when you want to try and distribute the responsibility for where Illinois finds itself. To drill this down to your household level, so we’re not talking in billions and billions and tens of billions… Amy Jacobson: Yes. Because you’d lose me at 10 billion Dan Proft: Well, Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger funded the show. She put out a nice meme, if you will, to drill this down so it’s understandable. Think about this as your household: this is Illinois, you have $7000 in bills on your kitchen table, you have 2000 bills in the mail coming to you, you have $110,000 in credit card debt, and you have $100 in your bank account. Make it work. Amy Jacobson: It’s impossible. Dan Proft: Right. So where do we go from here to the land of the possible? How do we get there? Well, let’s pose that question to State Senator Christine Radogno; she is the Senate Republican Leader. Senator Radogno; thanks for joining us again; appreciate it. Christine Radogno: Oh, no problem. Good to be with you. Dan Proft: So nothing happened yesterday, except a lot of kabuki theater and a lot of posturing, and we find ourselves without a budget, as, frankly, anticipating, without continuing appropriation for K-12 schools, as somewhat anticipated, and so what’s tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that look like? Christine Radogno: Well, again, dealing with the supermajority Democrats, they are the only ones who can allow us to vote on a balanced budget, and of course, they’ve not done that. The House passed a wildly out of balance budget. The Senate passed a school bill that spent another 900 million dollars that we don’t have. So right now we’re nowhere, we don’t know if schools will open in the fall, we are looking at universities closing; we are looking, frankly, at not being able to feed prisoners and people in madhouse institutions. So it’s critical that we pass some sort of plan to allow minimal state operation. The democrats have given much service, the same that they will, go ahead and do that, but my fear is that they’re looking at the crisis we're in, with no operating money, as an opportunity to somehow negotiate more spending. So that’s what we’ll be dealing with in the next week, is to try to keep that, the spending that they want to do, minimal. Amy Jacobson: And you mentioned that this is all political; I watched on Channel 7 last night, you said it’s all political because Madigan wants to drag this into the fall election cycle. Christine Radogno: Oh, absolutely. Both of the democrat leaders have said, “We can’t do anything until after the elections”. I mean, just think about that. There’s always an election around the corner. That is a complete and utter abdication of responsibility to say, “Oh, time out, we have to put everything on hold because we have elections, and oh, by the way, we can’t possibly go against the people that might help reelect us”. Dan Proft: And when you were talking about continuing a probe, for example, for K-12 schools, and you mentioned you don’t know at this point whether schools open in the fall; at least some, that are heavily relying on state resources. The governor had asked for a clean appropriation, and he’s done this before, this is essentially what happened last year, a clean appropriation, let’s make sure the schools have their funding, and then let’s deal the rest of the budgetary matters, and they didn’t want to do that, meaning the democrats. Christine Radogno: Well, what they did, the Senate passed a clean bill, but they piled on 900 million dollars of additional spending. So we need to go back to the comptroller’s example of your kitchen table. That’s just another pile of spending coming at you when you just had that $100 in your checking accounts. We’re all for spending money on schools, but you can’t do pie in the sky, you’ve got to reasonable and cognoscente of what taxpayers can possibly afford. Amy Jacobson: Yeah, but to say that schools won’t be open this fall, I mean, really? Because we’ve all got schools, but what about Chicago public schools? Are we the first district targeted? Christine Radogno: There’s no targeting. The fact of the matter is Chicago does rely heavily on the state. They will have a difficult time opening if there’s no appropriation passed. But I think that the plan at this point is to try to go back next week and look at some staff debt budgeting and a clean education bill. But we cannot spend an extra 900 million dollars on education right now. Dan Proft: So there seems to be – with respect to these stop gap budgeting – so that the governor was opposed to it and then he proposed a stop gap budget that was not received by the democrat leaders; former governor Edgar criticized the stop gap budget as kind of the worst of all possible worlds, and that essentially was Governor Rauner’s initial position. Where are we? Is that a sensible play, or is that a play that is made out of, frankly, with the exasperation with the intransigence of Madigan and Cullerton? Christine Radogno: Well, it is a sensible play, and the reason the governor opposed it when it was raised short time ago last week is that we were still hopeful that the democrats would, in good conscience, engage in a negotiation that would provide a long term budget and along term reform. Yesterday, when it became crystal clear that was not going to happen, the governor resurrected the concept of a short term budget. The democrat leaders have told him, “We’re not doing anything until after the elections”, so he has no choice but to look at a stop gap measure. Dan Proft: Now, yesterday the Senate rejected that 7 billion dollar out of balance budget Madigan pushed through the house. And that’s being seen by some as, “Oh, look, there’s disarray”. I see that, and correct me if I’m wrong, tell me what you think, I see that as, “Wait a second, this is just senate democrats making a faint, doing the apox on both your houses, the governor and Madigan, we don’t want to take the heat the governor’s taking, we don’t want to take the heat that Madigan is taking for pushing through a 7 billion dollar unconstitutionally unbalanced budget, so we’re going to feign independence that we don’t really possess. We’re going to pretend that we’re interested in fiscal sanity that we’re not really interested in; we’re just trying to stay out of the fray”. Christine Radogno: If in fact they’re really fed up with Madigan, that remains to be seen. The fact is they rarely reject what Madigan crams down their throat. They did that last night, we’ll find out soon enough if they were sincere in attempting to get a better product. They have not today. So we’ll see. Dan Proft: And to your point though, in terms of perhaps being cynical about their sincerity, is at the end of the day they reject that, but then Cullerton, like Madigan, says “Ah, nothing until after the elections”. So how serious are they about trying to get a balanced budget in place, right away, considering all the challenges the state has? Christine Radogno: Well, exactly, and not only a minute after they’ve rejected Madigan’s budget, they passed the standalone school bill that spent nearly another billion dollars. Dan Proft: Right, there you go. Christine Radogno: So, I mean, you’ve got to wonder. Amy Jacobson: Keep spending money we don’t have. That’s what we do. Dan Proft: Well, and so, if that’s the case, as you say, republicans are in the superminority in both houses, so they’re essentially at the mercy of Cullerton and Madigan, if we don’t see a budget before November, or before the election, what do the next 5 months look like, both in terms of the impact on Illinois families, as well as the score string of political campaign? Christine Radogno: Well, if nothing is done, if there’s no stop gap measure passed decision, or spending plan passed, I think you will see universities close, you will see chaos in public safety world, you will see schools not open. I mean, the consequences are enormous, and democrats are aware of that as well, which is why I think they will be driven to the table to attempt to negotiate some sort of stop gap measure. My biggest fear about the stop gap measure, however, is that they see this as an opportunity to get more. “We’ll give you a little bit, but we want a whole lot more spending”. So the taxpayers are definitely at risk as this thing goes on. Dan Proft: She is State Senator and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno; Senator Radogno, thanks so much for joining us; appreciate it. Christine Radogno: Thank you.