The Senate Budget Deal's Unanswered Question

Jan 23, 2017

The Illinois Senate is this week expected to consider a bipartisan compromise meant to break the 18-month budget stalemate.

The framework shows there are many areas in which Democrats and Republicans can come to an agreement. But it still leaves one big philosophical question unanswered.

That question is whether a governor can say: "Pass my agenda, and only then will I negotiate on a budget."

Democrats, like state Sen. Kwame Raoul of Chicago, have resisted that ultimatum.

“It’s a very dangerous precedent to set," Raoul says. "You don’t know who’s going to be elected governor in the future, and if we start to do these types of thing now, every governor is going to want to do that.”

One can imagine a future governor holding out on the budget in exchange something she wants around guns or abortion or some other contentious issue.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has demanded what he calls ‘economic reforms’ in exchange for balancing the budget. Democrats say his ideas would make life harder for working people.