Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Is Lisa Madigan on right track toward getting state to a balanced budget?

I’ll make one bold declarative statement before admitting I don’t have a clue how the situation concerning Illinois state government and its lack of a balanced budget is going to be resolved.
MADIGAN: Fighting for state budget

That statement is to say that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has the spirit of Illinois law clearly on her side when she and her staff of attorneys argue that Illinois government employees ought not to get paid until the budget mess is brought to an end.

THAT DOESN’T MEAN I believe her legal actions filed last week in the courts are going to be successful. Because having the “spirit” of the law on one’s side is nice, but doesn’t necessarily mean squat.

It could turn out there’s a technical legal interpretation that will be concocted by attorneys somewhere who are able to convince a judge of its merits. The fact that state law intended for the lack of a balanced budget in place to prevent government from operating might wind up meaning less than the 49 percent of the electorate that gave Hillary Clinton a plurality for the presidency.

She still lost! And it’s possible the courts will not think much of the Madigan move that asks the courts to issue an order preventing the Illinois comptroller’s office from meeting state payrolls come March 1.

Some think that Madigan’s real intention is to put pressure on the General Assembly (including the Illinois House of Representatives led by her father, Illinois House speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago) and Gov. Bruce Rauner to put together a budget.

AS IN HER legal request would become a moot point IF legislators and the governor can put aside their partisan political differences and approve something before Feb. 28.
Will Rauner, Madigan be able to resolve budget,...

Of course, they have been unable to do anything ever since Rauner became governor in January 2015. They did have that tentative spending plan in effect for the second half of 2016, but that expired when the balloons came tumbling down at New Year’s Eve parties all over the state.

Right now, we’re back in the same situation where state tax dollars are being collected and money exists, but it cannot legally be spent because of the lack of a specific plan detailing how it is to be spent.

Which is not an irresponsible idea at all. We ought to be able to see exactly how our tax dollars are going to be used. Would you really want any government officials to be able to spend the public’s money based on their own whims?
... thereby making speaker's daughter moot?

THE ONLY THING that has kept state government going since July 2015 is that some government programs operate under federal court orders that prevent state budgetary requirements from being literally applied to them.

There also was the previous legal exchange in which a Cook County judge issued an order saying the state payroll could not be met, but then a judge in St. Clair County (on the Mississippi River near St. Louis) ruled it had to be met. Although the Illinois Supreme Court came up with a ruling later that poked away at the St. Clair action.

The logic of meeting the state payroll without a budget is that the state, after all, has contracts with its employees’ unions. In fact, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is opposing Madigan’s current legal maneuver. They want state workers to keep getting paid – regardless of the top-ranking officials’ political ineptitude.

That ultimately is what a judge somewhere is going to have to decide – is the long-term fate of the state worth the hassle of the working stiffs getting their paychecks delayed? Which I’ll acknowledge would be a hassle to people who need that money they’ve earned in order to survive.

BUT THERE ARE other people suffering because the government programs upon which their livelihoods depend are being delayed. There are public schools across the state whose aid payments don’t come close to arriving on time. Just listen to your local school officials when they start talking bluntly about what they think of Illinois state government!

Perhaps the reality of being a government employee is that, while there are many perks and benefits to such jobs, one of the drawbacks is that you can be caught in the crossfire whenever people like Rauner and Madigan (Michael, that is) decide to take each other on.

The one plus is that having all these people angered over their incomes being tampered with probably is the only way that Rauner, Madigan and the other legislators will be motivated to give our state a balanced budget proposal.

Which, in the end, is the long-term solution to resolving the financial issues that make Illinois government a particularly laughable entity for government geeks to consider.


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