New General Assembly inaugurated with vows to end impasse


New General Assembly inaugurated with vows to end impasse
  1. New General Assembly inaugurated with vows to end impasse
    pantagraph.com
    SPRINGFIELD — A banner hanging above the stage at Sangamon Auditorium at the University of Illinois Springfield for Wednesday's Illinois House inauguration ceremony offered the members some a…
    Illinois (IL)

SPRINGFIELD — A banner hanging above the stage at Sangamon Auditorium at the University of Illinois Springfield for Wednesday's Illinois House inauguration ceremony offered the members some advice.

Quoting President John F. Kennedy, it read: “Let us not seek to fix blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

After the 99th General Assembly failed to enact a comprehensive state budget during its just-completed two-year term, there’s plenty of blame to go around. Members of both political parties and both legislative chambers acknowledge that an end to the budget standoff is long overdue.

It remains unclear, however, how the Democratic-controlled 100th General Assembly will find enough common ground to approve a budget that also will satisfy Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who wants changes to the state’s business and political climate.

Despite a new crop of state representatives and senators taking the oath of office for the first time Wednesday in separate ceremonies, the lay of the land in Springfield is relatively unchanged.

On the Democratic side, long-serving House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both of Chicago, were easily re-elected to their positions, as were House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont.

Despite a monthslong campaign by the Illinois Republican Party to pressure Democrats to vote against Madigan, none did. The lone holdout among the 67 House Democrats was Rep. Scott Drury of Highwood, who voted “present.”

In accepting a 17th term in the position he has held for all but two of the past 33 years, Madigan laid out an agenda that he says would boost economic growth in the state without competing in a “race to the bottom” on issues like workers’ compensation and collective bargaining, a shot at Rauner’s policy agenda.

Madigan called for increased investment in higher education, which has been hard hit by the budget turmoil of the past two years, along with transportation and communication infrastructure.

The speaker also called for cutting the state’s corporate income tax rate in half while also ensuring that all businesses pay something. And in an op-ed Wednesday in The (Springfield) State Journal-Register, Madigan also promoted a tax surcharge on income of more than $1 million to fund education and an increase in the state’s minimum wage.

“I believe we can grow the economy and create jobs without hurting middle-class families,” Madigan said.

For his part, Durkin said Republicans would work with Democrats on their policy agenda if it includes things like paying down the state’s $11 billion backlog of bills, reforming the severely underfunded public pension systems, reducing unemployment and enacting “truly balanced budgets.”

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