The Illinois legislature adjourned slightly before and after midnight on May 31. The House adjourned around 11 p.m. and the Senate adjourned about an hour later, just after midnight. Considering the fiscal condition of the state, the session was generally viewed as a step forward in dealing with the budget deficit, and creating some “reality” in the budgetary process.
The reality side is that both the House and Senate in a bi-partisan way established a finite number for the amount of revenue they would base their spending (appropriations) on for each element of the budget. Governor Quinn had suggested in February that spending of state dollars should be around $35 billion. The Senate set their number at a billion less than the Governor (real money??) at just over $34 billion, and the House established their revenue number at a billion less than the Senate, at just over $33 billion. Each chamber then went about establishing spending levels in the five large categories of the budget, allocating their suggested available funds within each category. That is where the similarities in process ended, unfortunately for the Senate.
While the House Democrats and Republicans rolled up their sleeves and worked together, the same did not hold true for the Senate. Senators spent their time in partisan wrangling, with Republicans ultimately voting against the Senate version of the budget. House members could not contain themselves in congratulating their colleagues for the engagement process, the spirit of bi-partisanship that held throughout their discussions and debates, and in the final approval process the House budget won out over the Senate version. Hey, they proved that it could be done! And, in a tough budget year when the discussion was based on where to cut (first time in a long time when the budget actually is smaller than the previous year), it was not pleasant for legislators to say no to worthy causes when they are used to saying yes.
There is still the reconciliation of the little $430 million add-on the Senate placed on the Capital projects legislation for regular budget items. The legislature will likely come back into session for a short time in July to deal with that.
At the beginning of the Session in January, two things stood out this year—the requirement that the legislature reconfigure the legislative and U.S. House districts to adjust for population changes, based upon the new census data, and the requirement to pass a budget. The Democratic majorities were determined to do that before May 31, since after that date, majorities for passage of legislation seeking an immediate effective date for implementation of new law require a three fifths majority. A three fifths vote in each chamber would require additional votes from the minority party (Republicans) and give them leverage and a bigger voice in the outcomes of legislation.
Many other bills were passed during the session—reform of workers compensation statutes, energy legislation, gaming expansion, and other important items, but the two things that needed to be done by May 31 were accomplished, for better or worse for Illinois citizens. We will now see the political effects of those two things in the coming fiscal year, and the 2012 election year, when candidates run in those new districts.