Springfield Stalemate Prevails in Aftermath of 2016 Election

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar

Last week, we broke down the 2016 Election results at the presidential level, also making reference to continued Republican control of the US House and Senate. Today, we’ll do the same for Illinois.

From the top, Tammy Duckworth (D-Hoffman Estates) handily defeated incumbent Mark Kirk (R-Kenilworth) for US Senate. This was one of only two pick-ups for Democrats nationally as the GOP retains a 52-48 seat majority. While Chuck Schumer replaces Harry Reid as Minority Leader, Illinois senior Senator Dick Durbin remains Minority Whip, removing him from a possible gubernatorial bid in 2018.

On the House side, only two of Illinois eighteen seats changed hands, with Raja Kristnamoorthi holding Duckworth’s northwest suburban seat (IL-8) for the Democrats, and Brad Schneider besting incumbent Republican Bob Dold in the adjacent 10th congressional district that has swung back and forth between these two candidates four consecutive elections. Schneider’s win was one of only six-to-seven net gains for Democrats, leaving Republicans with a comfortable majority heading into 2017.

The proxy war for Illinois Comptroller was won by Susana Mendoza, currently serving as Chicago City Clerk, but previously a member of Speaker Michael Madigan’s House Democratic Caucus. This was seen as a defeat for Governor Bruce Rauner, as he hand-picked Leslie Munger and invested substantially in her campaign. Mendoza will be seated in early January, and the manner by which she pays the state’s delinquent bills will be a key subplot to the ongoing Springfield Stalemate.

Rauner’s Republicans did chip away at the Democratic supermajorities in the House and Senate. The GOP had a net gain of four seats in the House, leaving Democrats with a 67-51 majority, but short of the 60% necessary to override gubernatorial vetoes. Republicans also picked up two seats in the Senate, but Democrats retain a 37-22 supermajority in the upper house.

The General Assembly convened last week for the fall veto session and will be back again after Thanksgiving. Recall that the six-month budget passed in overtime this summer expires with the 2016 calendar, and its resolution is required for Rauner to sign a short-term pension fix for Chicago Public Schools. Should they fail, the district will be out $215 billion in its current 2016-2017 budget.

Governor Rauner continues to push for passage of elements of his Turnaround Agenda, recently returning to worker’s compensation reform for one. In search of a grand bargain, he’s nominally offered to endorse a tax increase as a means to passing a budget in exchange for these non-budgetary reforms. Also looming large is Illinois’ terribly underfunded public pension system, now estimated to be $129 billion in arrears.

Both Rauner and Madigan are clearly playing the long game, eying the next election (now 2018) as the juncture when their party will ultimately prevail. However, it’s perfectly possible that the status quo will reign once more, and the state’s unpaid bills accumulate as we suffer through a second year without a budget.

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