The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Illinois Budget Soap Opera

Apr 11, 2016

Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and the Democrats who run the Illinois House and Senate have refused to pass a state budget for months. Rauner claims Illinois “can’t afford” its social programs or public sector unions. The Democrats pretend to be the defenders of workers and state services. In reality, it’s all a political soap opera.

The Democrats completely ran Illinois for more than a decade, controlling the Illinois House and Senate and the governor’s office. When they were in uncontested power, the Democrats handed out hundreds of millions in tax breaks to every corporation that came calling, including United Airlines, MillerCoors, Google, Caterpillar – in fact, just about every company that operates in the state!

The Democrats claimed the state was broke. Of course it was – they gave the bank away! Then, looking for more money to give away, they raised taxes on ordinary people and carried out a policy of “death by a thousand cuts,” reducing spending on social programs and education. And the previous governor, Democrat Pat Quinn, claimed, like Rauner does now, that Illinois “could not afford” the pensions it promised to state workers. The Democrats passed a law that would have drastically reduced pension benefits for state workers – when the Democrats had been the ones who hadn’t put the money they owed into the pension system for more than a decade.

No wonder working people in Illinois weren’t exactly excited to vote for Democrat Pat Quinn in 2014. He lost to Republican Bruce Rauner.

Now Rauner is using his election to continue the attacks on services and on state workers, and also to go after public sector unions. He has proposed putting in place restrictions similar to those enacted in Wisconsin. These restrictions would hurt the unions’ ability to collect dues and maintain an apparatus. That would harm the Democrats because the union apparatus provides the Democratic Party’s most important base of campaigners. This is the real issue on which the Democrats disagree with Rauner. It’s an election issue!

The Democrats and Republicans have proven that they agree about attacking pensions, education, Medicaid, mental health services and everything else ordinary people depend on. But the budget drama being carried out today lets the Democrats hide their responsibility.

Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is playing this game to the hilt. He has been attacking working class children since he was first elected, coming after the teachers and closing schools in working class neighborhoods. Now, he is blaming Rauner for the Chicago Public Schools budget deficit – that he created by giveaways to the banks and corporations! He tells teachers to protest the Republicans, not him. Most are not fooled.

While Rauner and the Democrats are acting out this political soap opera, they are creating a disaster for many people across the state. Of course, Democrats and Republicans make sure the state hasn’t missed a single interest payment to the banks. But after-school programs and rape crisis centers are shutting down. Almost 100,000 seniors are no longer getting Meals on Wheels. Programs that give breast and cervical cancer screenings, and treatment for epilepsy and autism are turning people away for lack of funds. Colleges like Chicago State and Eastern Illinois have issued layoff notices to their workers and are threatening to close altogether.

So even before they pass the budget, this drama in Springfield has taken money away from programs the population needs. It’s just a foretaste of the budget they will finally cook up. It couldn’t be clearer – neither party represents the interests of ordinary people.