Dems beat on Rauner’s plans; Workers' comp, budget votes don’t go his way

By Mark Fitton | May 28, 2015

SPRINGFIELD — Democrats were rough on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s agenda Wednesday.

Senate Democrats voted down the Republican governor’s workers compensation reform in committee.

Later, they called to the floor and then crushed Democrat-proposed measures that mirrored Rauner’s numbers from his February budget proposal.

Afterward, the Senate Democrats began passing their own party’s spending plan, which they acknowledge is at least $3 billion — Republicans say $4 billion — light on funding.

Republicans accused their colleagues of emulating the House in political stunts.

“It’s kind of unfortunate and sad to see the majority on our side (of the rotunda) join in the games of Speaker Madigan, the guy you tell us all the time doesn’t dictate to you, and now you're dancing to his tune,” said Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine.

House Democrats, led by Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago, had conducted similar negative votes on Rauner-favored concepts during the past two weeks.

Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, said calling the governor’s original budget proposals for debate and votes was a legitimate way to bring light and discussion to the administration’s proposed $6 billion in cuts.

“There’s no intent to fool anyone,” he said.

Trotter also poked Republicans over their “present” votes saying they “didn’t have the courage to present the governor’s budget yet still hold it quite near to their hearts.”

Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, told Democrats they were making a mistake treating the Rauner proposals as disposable while running out their own, imbalanced plans.

“The citizens of Illinois are on to this,” he said. “They’ve had it with these types of shenanigans. They’ve had it with people who keep passing unbalanced budgets while the jobs keep leaving the state.”

GOP legislators have been critical of Democrats, who are sending their own $36.3 billion spending plan to Rauner’s desk while knowing it's at least $3 billion out of whack.

Democrats say the spending priorities and authorization need to be set now to keep the state far away from shutdown, and they argue the additional revenue can be found later.

The GOP argues that’s not only horrific financial thinking, but directly contrary to a state constitution clause that says spending and revenue estimates must be in line.

With less than a week to go in the scheduled legislative session, the two sides appear nowhere near each other on budget issues or Rauner’s “Turnaround Illinois” agenda.

Workers comp

The Rauner administration’s effort to try to curb workers compensation insurance costs was defeated in a Senate judiciary committee by a party-line 8-4 vote Wednesday morning, with Democrats casting the “no” votes.

Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont presented the bill, saying Illinois still had the nation’s seventh-highest workers comp costs despite legislative fixes made in 2011.

While the 2011 effort made some difference — bringing Illinois down from fourth-highest — the state still has extraordinary costs compared to its neighbors, Radogno said.

She said that higher cost of doing business was one of the factors that has led to the loss of 300,000 manufacturing jobs over the last 15 years.

The Republican proposal sought to have workers show a work injury is more than half responsible for their claim. The bill also sought some medical fee schedule reductions and other changes.

Opponents argued the changes would be depriving some claimants of any relief and in other cases “cost shifting” or sending workers compensation insurance costs to areas such health insurance or liability exposure.

The Senate actions came despite Rauner publicly asking Senate members to differentiate themselves from Madigan-led House Democrats, who the governor said were “refusing to compromise and doubling down on a broken system.”

In another matter, a Senate committee said it would hold off until Thursday on some of the testimony and a vote on the governor’s property tax freeze proposal.

Mark Fitton is a reporter for Illinois News Network, a division of the Illinois Policy Institute. 

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