The Time for Revenue Advocacy is Now
By Dan Lesser
Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s announcement last week that she was asking a court in St. Clair County to lift its order requiring that state employees be paid during the budget impasse despite there being no appropriation for that purpose is a major development. Based on legal precedent, the AG’s motion is very likely to be granted, if not by a lower court then by an appellate or the Illinois Supreme court. She has asked that the parties be given until February 28 to reach a budget agreement. If no agreement is reached by that date, state workers would stop being paid, precipitating a shutdown of the state government.
The key point for RBC members and partners to take from this is that the AG’s action, by putting significant pressure on all sides to reach an agreement and avoid a government shutdown, adds substantial momentum to the bipartisan budget negotiations being undertaken by the Senate’s leadership.
The reason why this moment is so critical is because revenue-raising and spending measures are all in play and the resolution of the budget impasse will guide state budgets for many years to come. And, if the revenue measures in the budget are not sufficient, spending cuts will be put into place that will be very difficult to win back.
The key leverage point for us, in addition to the Governor and legislative leaders, are the Senate and House Revenue Committees, where revenue-raising measures will originate. The Appropriations Committees will be deciding how the pie will be cut, but they will be constrained by the revenue generated by the Revenue Committees that will determine the size of the pie.
Big business interests already have taken aim at the revenue-raising measures agreed upon by Senate leadership, forcing a proposed sugary beverage tax to be removed from the package. Several other decisions remain – how much will the individual and corporate income taxes be increased? Will more services be taxed and how much? Will corporate loopholes be closed? Will other revenue-generating measures be adopted?
The Chairperson of the Senate Revenue committee, Toi Hutchinson, has championed the need for adequate revenue to meet vital needs and make smart investments but she will face enormous pressure and needs our support. The other Democratic Senators on the Revenue Committee are Pat McGuire, Daniel Biss, Melinda Bush, Emil Jones, Jr., and Ira Silverstein. The Republican members are Pamela Althoff, Karen McConnaughay and Chris Nybo.
The Chairperson of the House Revenue Committee, John Bradley, was defeated in the general election. The new chairperson and committee members have not yet been announced.
The current Senate Revenue package is Senate Bill 9, though this could change.
So the time for advocacy is now. During this critical time, the RBC will continue to inform our members and partners of advocacy opportunities and to provide the support needed to make that advocacy most effective.
Please call these committee members to state your support for raising adequate revenue to fully fund services, especially if you or a member organization lives in their district. Call Sen. Hutchinson to thank her for her leadership. You can call toll free 1-844-311-CUTS (1-844-311-2887) to be connected to your lawmaker.
Dan is the Director of Economic Justice at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and Coordinator of RBC.