Chesney Guest Column: Legislators turn in sloppy homework while asking for extra credit; leave town for Summer Vacation

While Alice Cooper’s School’s Out may not have been blaring on the steps of the State Capitol in the wee hours of the morning of June 1, Democrat legislators still delighted in their wins while turning in sloppy homework and asking for extra credit before leaving town for Summer Vacation.

Due to an insistence by House Democrat legislators to reinsert legislative pay raises removed from state spending plans by Senate Democrats and panned by Republicans in both chambers, last minute changes were made to the final State Budget proposal by House Democrats which accidentally forgot and failed to fund numerous state agencies and included incorrect effective dates for large swaths of state spending. These mistakes forced Democrat Governor JB Pritzker to issue an amendatory veto of the State Budget to prevent the catastrophes that would be caused due to House Democrats’ sloppy performance on this, their main assignment for the Spring Session.

However, while he certainly had the opportunity to do so, Governor Pritzker did not go further to veto out the pay raises which became the main point of contention between the Senate Democrats and House Democrats competing spending plans. This extra credit, insisted upon by House Democrats for a performance which even fellow Democrats had to correct as incomplete, is the height of hypocrisy by politicians, regardless of party.

Frankly, this hurried approach was also entirely unnecessary. Keep in mind that Democrats have veto-proof majorities in the Illinois House, the Illinois Senate, and control of every Executive Office in state government. While we Republicans can complain, cast a light of transparency, and advocate a better path forward for Illinois, Democrats need not a single Republican vote to enact any of their priorities in our state. With that in mind, it is fair to ask, “why such budgetary dysfunction?”

The answer is most unfortunate. House Democrats wanted pay raises. Not just for themselves, but they wanted more money for their staffs and to run their offices, as well. Keep in mind, there are many friends and family members of theirs who need jobs, as well. Perhaps “ghost payroll patronage jobs” are harder to find now that federal prosecutors led by President Trump encircled Democrats’ patronage operations at Com-Ed.

This one issue; this one small lever of control was enough for House Democrats to jeopardize a full year of state spending for programs helping the most vulnerable in our state. Had Governor Pritzker not helped House Democrats fix their mess, we’d be beginning a year of a state government shutdown caused ONLY by a demand for politicians’ pay raises. Much as House Democrats would like to say, “it’s a new day,” apparently some important things stay the same. This is Illinois, after all. Self-interest over public interest. It is the sickness that accompanies the endemic corruption which has maligned Illinois for too long.

I filed legislation this week to enact a Midnight Rule in the Illinois House to prevent partisan hijinks in the legislature in the way of passing bills between midnight and six am. This bill is a band-aid on a wound that goes much deeper, though.

The legislature may have left town for Summer Vacation, but the need for meaningful ethics reform, meaningful government reform, does not go away with them. While their “Incomplete” grades were changed by “Progressive Principal” Pritzker, taxpayers should hold politicians accountable for giving themselves extra credit pay raises with their hard-earned money.