Illinois' budget, and Gov. Bruce Rauner's influence on it, will be examined by a special legislative committee. The powerful House Speaker announced its creation today.
It's either a sign of a contentious budget battle, or an early attempt at reaching a compromise.
Speaker Michael Madigan doesn't say straight out that Gov. Rauner's sudden elimination of state grants for AIDS, autism, and after-school programs are to blame, but he hints at it, strongly. In a press release, Madigan says he's forming the special budget oversight panel "in light of recent budget actions." Madigan says given how much the governor's talked about cutting "non-essential state spending," it's important for lawmakers to discuss just what that means.
Democratic Representative John Bradley of Marion will co-chair the committee. He pushed back when asked if Rauner has made too many budget cuts already saying he's not ready to reach any conclusions yet.
"The depth and enormity of what's going on is significant," Bradley said. "Something that we haven't faced, I don't believe. And so there's a lot at stake. And if we're going to protect the security of the middle class, if we're going to look at the budget from a responsible and wise perspective, I think this is something which is important."
One of Rauner's legislative allies, Republican Rep. Ed Sullivan, who's from Mundelein, says it seems political.
"I want to see where the speaker wants to go with this, and it's just not an avenue to whack the governor for in essence doing his job," Sullivan says. "You never had these panels when the Democrats were putting their budgets out the past 12 years when they ran everything."
Sullivan says the Speaker needs to share responsibility for the recent $26 million grant suspensions, which followed a bipartisan agreement on a $1.6 billion budget hole for the current fiscal year. Sullivan says during those negotiations, Democrats took other options off the table, leaving Rauner with fewer options to cover the hole.
The governor's office didn't directly respond to a question on how it viewed the new budget oversight panel, and if it'll cooperate. Rauner's spokeswoman offered a statement saying he's committed to fixing Illinois' fiscal crisis, and working with the legislature to do it. Rauner's office says the recent, bipartisan agreement on the FY15 budget protects core state services for thousands of residents.