It’s officially fall in Illinois. That means football, cooler weather, and getting ready for the upcoming Holiday Season. For members of the General Assembly it’s also time to get ready for the Fall Veto Session and to brace for a possible “lame duck” surprise.
Each year the Veto Session is meant to be an opportunity for the House and Senate to revisit legislation we passed in the spring that the governor either totally or partially vetoed. This year, Governor Rauner issued 30 total vetoes to 17 Senate Bills and 13 House Bills, and he issued amendatory (partial) vetoes to ten more which could be considered for an override vote. This fall, though, it’s clear that the vetoes will take a back seat to the more important task we have before us; passing a new state budget to get us through the second half of the fiscal year.
Members of the General Assembly worked together in June across the aisle and with the governor to formally end an 18-month long budget stalemate, but our work on our Fiscal Year 2017 state budget is far from complete. The stopgap spending plan approved this summer to fund most state operations and services expires on December 31.
If no new plan is in place by then, we will once again be without a budget. Our current Fall Veto Session schedule consists of a total of six days in November and December, so we certainly have a lot of work to do in a short period of time.
Because this is an election year, we also have to be prepared for a potential post-election “lame duck” surprise before the new General Assembly is sworn-in on January 11. For years, Speaker Madigan has used post-election lame duck sessions to pass volatile, controversial legislation with the largest number of outgoing legislators – legislators who technically have already been replaced by the voters in their districts, and are therefore no longer accountable.
In 2011, just hours before the new members of the General Assembly were scheduled to be sworn in, 12 lame duck members provided the votes the Speaker needed to impose a 67 percent income tax increase on families, and a job-killing tax increase on employers. Most of those members, while campaigning, had been adamantly opposed to a tax increase.
With the Speaker’s continued refusal to even discuss Governor Rauner’s proposed cost-saving budget reforms spending pressures continue to grow, and unfortunately, so do the chances that we may ring in the New Year with another “lame duck” surprise tax increase.