By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network
SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House on Wednesday ultimately gave Gov. Bruce Rauner the “clean” spending bill he asked for, but only after a bruising debate.
In the end, a bill to OK the state’s spending about $5.2 billion in federal funds on human services, as well as $166 million in state money toward debt service for Chicago’s Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, passed with no opposition.
But an earlier House Democrats’ plan to add $585 million in state general fund spending, as well as $170 million from other state funds, put the rhetoric from both sides on high heat, even though it appeared to lack votes from the start.
House Republicans blasted the Democrats for trying to add state spending to the Senate’s $4.8 billion federal “pass through” authorization.
Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, said Democrats knew the GOP was opposed and knew they didn’t have the votes needed to pass the measure as amended.
Instead, he said, they were trying to force a “sham vote” and paint the Republicans as the bad guys who refused to support money for programs such as childcare and breast cancer screenings.
“You’re clearly politicizing the process now,” he said.
Sandack called the House Democrats’ proposal “a thwarting measure. It gets in the way of good process. It gets in the way of way of getting something done today because the governor, as you all know, announced he would not sign anything with a poison pill” provision attached.
He asked Democrats to drop their amendment in favor of another one already being prepared so the House could “get something done today and get the pass-through money to recipients as soon as possible.”
Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs made a similar plea. He said the federal pass-through bill marked one of the few times nearly everyone was in accord on an important financial issue.
“We know exactly what this bill in this form is about,” he said, arguing that Democrats were continuing an “unfortunate summer” of doing little more than running impractical votes for use in attack mailings.
“Let’s not continue down this road,” he said. “Let’s not go on with the charades,” he said as he asked Democrats to bring out the language that everyone knew could pass, be supported in the Senate and get Rauner’s signature.
Democratic representatives, however, said they had philosophical and and practical reasons for adding state spending to Senate Bill 2042.
“It now becomes even more important to let these folks know that there are services out there and that we don’t want to deny them those services,” said Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates. “If the governor doesn’t like it, he can use a line-item veto.”
Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, argued the spending was necessary to keep from losing certain federal funds and having to pay back others. He said there were hundreds of millions of dollars at risk, and the matter was time-sensitive.
Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago, and others rejected the “poison pill” terminology and allegations of political charade.
“You dare to be indignant at this side of the aisle?” he asked Republicans. “You dare to be indignant with this side of aisle over process … when there are people next week who don’t know how they’ll be taking care of their child or if they’ll be able to go to work?”
When the plan fell well short of the needed 71 votes, Democrats brought out House Amendment 3, and it and the bill passed on identical 98 to 0 votes.
House Amendment 3 removed most state general and special funding; added some federal fund authorization for the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency; and authorized a state payment of about $166 million for the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority
The bill now goes back to the Senate, where bipartisan support for concurrence is expected. Durkin said the governor supports and will sign the bill.
After the House debate, Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said the final vote was another piece of evidence that he and House Democrats are willing to work with the Rauner and the GOP.
But, the speaker added, he took “great exception” to funding for programs such as cancer screenings being labeled “a poison pill.”
Also, he said as of his last check, “Republicans are way ahead of us” in both political mailers and television advertising.
The Senate is next scheduled to convene Aug. 19 and the House on Aug. 25.