Legislative Action Special Section
The marathon session: Why did it take so long?
By MICHAEL D. KLEMENS, WEN HUANG and CAROLINE A. GHERARDINI
The conjunction of a new governor, redistricting and a shortage of state cash produced a record-long spring legislative session. Lawmakers and Gov. Jim Edgar squared off for much of July, seeing who would blink first. The compromises finally fell into place on July 17, and when lawmakers went home July 19, Edgar was declared the winner.
Some of the delay came from the test of wills as the General Assembly's Democratic majority tried to take the measure of the new Republican governor. Some came from lawmakers' ever-present abhorrence of cutting programs. And some came as lawmakers wrestled with what for many is a life-and-death issue, the decennial redrawing of the boundary lines for the districts within which 118 representatives and 59 senators must run for election.
Everything took a back seat to redistricting. Democratic efforts to pass a bill that would draw legislative districts did not reach fruition until June 30. And until the maps were passed, issues that could have split the party and lost votes from the maps were postponed.
The other problem that Democrats faced was the political problem of cutting the budget. Edgar had proposed token increases in education spending and deep cuts in welfare programs. To have imposed their own budget solution, Democrats would have had to make deep "Democratic" cuts somewhere, most probably in education. During the last week of the session Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-30, Chicago) said he had lots of members who said they were ready to make the necessary cuts and go home. Then he asked whether they were ready to cut education funding. Their answer: "Oh no. Not me. I'm not going to do that."
Late on June 30, the last day of the fiscal year and the General Assembly's scheduled adjournment date, there were indications that the session would be a long one. Democrats were pushing a measure in the House to temporarily appropriate money so that welfare checks could be issued and other state services continued. Rep. Jim McPike (D-112, Alton), Madigan's majority leader, charged that Republican opposition amounted to playing politics with poor people: "While we're here fighting over this budget, which we're going to do, for a week or two weeks or a month, until we restore those priorities of the Democratic party, those checks won't go out." The temporary budget passed the House but died in the Senate just before midnight.
With July 1 came new stature for Republicans in the Senate. The requirement for a three-fifths majority to pass a bill after June 30 means that any measure needs Republican votes. Democrats blamed Edgar for delaying the session; Senate President Philip J. Rock (D-8, Oak Park) opened the July 1 Senate session by saying he would await the governor's budget plan.
The issues soon became clear. Republicans wanted the income tax extended permanently, while House Democrats would support only a two-year extension. Republicans revived a property tax cap plan that had lain dormant in the House for a month and a half; Democrats opposed it. Republicans wanted the state to get half of local governments' half of the 1989 surcharge money; Democrats were reluctant to reduce local governments' share. Republicans wanted to balance the budget with deep welfare cuts; Democrats favored borrowing to pay old bills.
After July 1, Edgar and the four leaders met daily but progressed little. They emerged from summit meetings time and again saying there had been frank discussions but very little progress. Speaker Madigan used the same theme throughout most of the overtime session, claiming that Republicans wanted the overtime session but didn't know what to do when they got it.
Edgar maintained that property tax caps were needed to get Republican votes on the surcharge extension and that some of local governments' share of the surcharge was needed to balance the budget. Edgar visited both Republican caucuses to shore up support. The governor took some criticism for not finding a solution, but he seemed content to wait.
An early pressure point for a settlement was the anticipated failure to issue welfare checks the first week in July. However, the Legal Assistance Foundation won a federal district court ruling that the state must continue to send out the checks. No one dared appeal the ruling, and the waiting game continued.
At the same time that Edgar and the leaders were meeting, legislators and Edgar's staff were working to balance the budget. The budgeteers, as they came to be called, pronounced progress without offering specifics. And the big decisions, like divying up the proceeds of the surcharge, were left to the governor and the four leaders.
A second pressure arrived July 15, when the first paychecks were due to state employees. Edgar, claiming that negotiations were stalled, proposed appropriating money to pay state workers for the rest of July. Democrats, recalling Edgar's opposition specifically to their June 30 plan and generally to a "piecemeal budget," cried foul and defeated the proposal. In the process they renewed their attacks on a governor they said was shutting down state government for the sake of property tax caps that would benefit wealthy suburban homeowners.
The break come on July 17. Everyone was tired of the session. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's operatives were working with Republicans. So Madigan and House Minority Leader Lee A. Daniels (R-46, Elmhurst) talked compromise, then met with Edgar and the Senate leaders and together hammered out the final details: half the surcharge would be made permanent, half would be tempo-
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Legislative Action Special Section
rary; property tax caps would be imposed in the collar counties but not in suburban Cook County; Edgar could take half of local governments' share of the surcharge this year, but would give back some in the following year.
Key provisions of the session-ending deal as incorporated into S.B. 1378 included:
Length of income tax extension. Lawmakers permanently extended the education "share" of the 1989 income tax surcharge while making the state/local government "share" temporary for another two years. They extended both retroactively to July 1, when, technically, the 1989 increases had expired.
The individual income tax rate, which was increased from 2.5 to 3.0 percent in 1989 will continue at 3.0 percent through June 30, 1993, when it will drop to 2.75 percent, unless extended again. The corporate income tax rate, which was increased from 4.0 percent to 4.8 percent in 1989, will continue at 4.8 percent through June 30,1993, when it will drop to 4.4 percent, unless extended again.
Distribution of surcharge money. Lawmakers made increased education funding permanent and gave state government a piece of the local government share this year and a smaller piece of the local government share next year. For fiscal year 1992 Edgar got his 50 percent state govemment/50 percent local government split; for fiscal year 1993 the split will become 25 percent state/75 percent local.
According to the Bureau of the Budget, the education share was $374 million in fiscal 1991 and will be $391 million in both fiscal 1992 and 1993. Local governments will see their share drop from $302 million in fiscal 1991 to $161 million in fiscal 1992 and then increase to $236 million in fiscal 1993. The state will pick up $154 million in fiscal 1992 and then $75 million in fiscal 1993, a loss of $79 million in the second year.
Education's permanent increase comes by making permanent the 7.3 percent diversion of net income tax receipts to the Education Assistance Fund. Of course, education will see a loss in fiscal 1994 if the tax rate is allowed to decrease because it will be getting 7.3 percent of a smallerpot. Nor does making the diversion permanent guarantee an increase. In fiscal year 1992, for example, higher education appropriations dropped $12 million, even with the "permanent" increase.
Double deduction. Lawmakers changed the income tax deduction allowed homeowners to a tax credit. The deduction had been earlier responses to demands for property tax relief. As part of the 1983 temporary income tax increase, which expired June 30, 1984, homeowners were allowed to deduct property taxes from income, before figuring their state income taxes. In 1989, as part ofthe surcharge, homeowners were allowed to take property taxes from their income twice, before the tax is figured. With personal income tax rates at 3 percent, the deduction permits homeowners to reduce their state income tax payment by 6 percent of their property tax bill.
With a credit instead of a deduction, to payers will now be able to reduce their income tax bills by 5 percent of property taxes paid. Savings to the state will be about $35 million.
Property tax caps. Lawmakers compromised and imposed property tax caps only in the collar counties (DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties) while imposing a one-year assessment freeze in Cook County.
For the five collar counties, beginning with 1991 levies (property taxes paid in 1992) total extensions cannot increase more than 5 percent or the U.S. Department of Labor's Consumer Price Index, whichever is less. The law excludes home-rule govenments and the taxes that pay certain existing obligations, and it allows a taxing unit that had previously cut taxes to use an earlier extension total, protecting units that had cut taxes. The extension limit can be raised by voter referendum.
Property tax relief for Cook County residents will take the form of a one-year assessment freeze, meaning that property taxes paid in 1992 will be based on the same assessments as those paid in 1991. The freeze accomplishes a reform measure, allowing taxing districts to impose a levy based on a
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known tax base. The term for the change is prior-known equalized assessed value.
The bill included two other reform measures. Cook County would be allowed to move to a quarterly system for collecting property taxes beginning in 1992. Such a system would ease "second installment shock" when taxpayers receive all of their tax increase in the second bill. The second reform requires that taxing districts file their levy requests at the same time, by the last Tuesday in December.
The final provision was designed to help cities make up for the loss of surcharge revenue by allowing them to impose, for no more than two years, a 5 percent tax on out-of-state telephone calls. Estimates are that Chicago could generate $30 million annually if it imposes the tax.
Budget gap tug-of-war
One of the most difficult exercises that state lawmakers had to deal with was the budget. As signed by Edgar on July 30, the total budget for fiscal year 1992 contains spending authority (appropriations) of $27.6 billion, an increase of $l.58 billion from fiscal year 1991 and $2.03 billion from the fiscal year 1992 budget proposed by Edgar in March. The budget likewise set general funds spending authority at $13.441 billion, an increase of $517 million (4.0 percent) from fiscal year 1991 appropriations and $315 million (2.4 percent) from the fiscal year 1992 appropriations that Edgar proposed in March.
The size of the budget cuts that Edgar proposed in March was in dispute for much of the spring. Edgar said that the cuts in his budget totaled $500 million. He arrived at that number by setting at $1.3 billion the cost of a variety of fiscal corrections (paying old bills, closing the deficit, rebuilding the bank balance and postponing fewer bills into the next fiscal year). With only $825 million in new revenues available, Edgar concluded that spending cuts of $500 million were needed.
Lawmakers contended that Edgar understated the magnitude of his proposed budget cuts. They took a different approach, computing what it would cost to continue existing programs in fiscal year 1992.
In late May, House Democrats released their estimates of the budget gap, $1.1 billion in the general funds. With the inclusion of other funding issues paying medical bills
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for the poor in 35 days instead of 60, restoring the $156 million in assistance for local governments that Edgar proposed to cut and giving constitutional officers and the courts the $26 million that Edgar had eliminated from their request the "budget gap" stood at $1.5 billion. A gap that large gave leaders a justification to say no to members who wanted to see spending increases.
Then, in mid-June the administration acknowledged that fiscal year 1991 revenues would fall $200 million short of the estimates that Edgar used inputting together his budget. The shortfall would be accommodated by pushing spending off into fiscal year 1992, doubling the fiscal effect by cutting revenues and increasing old bills. With that revelation, the budget gap grew to $1.9 billion. In the closing days of the session a $l .8 billion or $ 1.9 billion budget gap was used interchangably by legislators and the governor.
Much of the hole was closed with new federal funds. All told, the Bureau of the Budget estimates that between fiscal year 1991 and fiscal year 1992 federal funds will increase $1.03 billion, more than twice the increase that Edgar had proposed in his original budget. The big boost comes from the new hospital assessment program that taxes hospitals and nursing homes a percentage of their Medicaid charges, then gets the federal government to match that money, and returns the tax and the federal match to the facilities through higher rates. The other big chunk of new federal money is nearly $300 million that will come as federal reimbursement when old medical bills are paid by the state.
There were a number of other revenue measures that lawmakers enacted. None could be called tax increases but most qualify for the "smoke and mirrors" label. Among the major revenue changes:
The date for sales tax payments that retailers must make to the Department of Revenue was moved up from the last day of the month to the 20th of the month, increasing fiscal year 1992 revenues by $86 million. The increase will be a one-time gain.
A similar acceleration, along with a higher rate of prepayment of the sales tax, was enacted for those who sell gasoline and diesel fuel. The action will increase fiscal year 1992 revenues by $25 million, again a one-time increase.
Gov. Edgar was given authority to transfer $50 million from special state funds such as the Cemetery Consumer Protection Fund to the General Revenue Fund anytime before July 1, 1992. That caused an immediate problem. When Edgar proposed to transfer $21 million from the Pension Fund, Democrats assailed his choice and annuitants went to court to block the transfer. Like the acceleration, the fund transfer is a one-time increase.
Lawmakers gave Edgar specific authority to transfer up to $14 million from the Illinois Agricultural Loan Guarantee Fund and from the Illinois Farmer and Agribusiness Loan Guarantee Fund, funds outside of the state treasury that are used to guarantee farm loans. That increase is one-time.
Lawmakers gave Edgar authority to transfer $85 million in Build Illinois monies not needed to meet bond obligations to the Common School Fund on June 15,1992, another one-time increase.
Lawmakers diverted for two years money from the Build Illinois Purposes Fund, effectively keeping $28.8 million for the General Revenue Fund. That transfer is for fiscal years 1992 and 1993, making it a two-time increase.
As discussed earlier, Edgar's successful retention of half the local government share of income tax surcharge money will free $156 million for state spending in fiscal year 1992. When the 50/50 split becomes a 25 percent state/75 percent local split in fiscal year 1993, $78 million of the increase will become one-time.
The revenue increases total $450 million, of which $350 million are one-time increases that will not be repeated in fiscal year 1993.
On the spending side, lawmakers ultimately agreed to approximately $500 million in spending cuts that Edgar had proposed, some of them after the March budget address. Major cuts included:
Overhaul of the General Assistance programs that provide welfare checks for those who do not qualify for Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Single adults that the state deems employable will be eligible for nine months of checks in fiscal year 1992 and six months in fiscal year 1993. Savings to the state will be $25 million this year.
Suspension of the requirement that the state pay interest on unpaid bills for medical service provided to the poor, saving $62 million.
Eliminating a variety of programs that provide medical service to the poor (for example, incentives for nursing home care under the Quality Incentive Program (QUIP) and the Aid to the Medically Indigent program). The savings are $326 million, with the assumption that the new assessment program will provide money to replace some of those programs. Another effect of the assessment program is to move much of the Department of Public Aid's spending outside the general funds.
Revised the assistance given low-income elderly persons under the circuit breaker plan. The state will save $46 million by requiring use of generic prescription drugs, capping annual claims at $800 and requiring the individual to pay the first $10 of generic prescriptions and the first $15 of other drugs. The state would also eliminate, after January 1, 1992, the $80 grant given to each applicant. The savings are two-thirds of the $69 million savings proposed by Edgar, which had a $400 annual cap on prescription subsidies.
Ended state assistance with heating bills for low-income persons, providing assistance instead through a federally funded program, at a $44 million annual savings.
Required state workers to pay for a portion of their own health insurance, capping the contribution at $150 per year. The measure will save the state $34 million, money that is required to pick up employee pension contributions, negotiated as part of the contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Enacted an early retirement plan that will give employees in agencies under the governor, the General Assembly and the courts the opportunity to retire at age 50 or after 30 years of service, an extra five years of service credit, although they must pay half of the contributions they would have made in that time. Savings, which would come from not replacing some workers and replacing others with those who earn less, are put at $50 million annually.
No maps for Statehouse or congressional districts
Lawmakers managed to redistrict neither the General Assembly nor congressional districts. Democrats did pass state legislative maps that they sent to Gov. Jim Edgar, who promptly vetoed them as unfair to both Republicans and minorities. Democrats could not win legislative agreement on congressional maps. The General Assembly did pass, and Edgar signed, maps that will provide for creation of new Cook County circuit court districts.
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Legislative Action Special Section
In mid-April Senate Republicans, who hold 28 of 59 seats in the upper chamber, offered the first hint of how difficult the redistricting process would prove, when they informed their members of population changes by current district. The six districts that had grown the most since the 1980 census, all represented by Republicans, contained a whopping 334,000 more people than needed to meet targets. In effect Senate Republicans could pick up 1.72 seats, and a Senate majority, in just those six districts. At the same time the biggest population losses were in Democratic districts.
Until mid-June there was some redistricting action for public consumption. The House Committee on Reapportionment held 22 hearings across the state. Its recommendation was not surprising: "The committee recognizes that the current political map in Illinois contains significant elements of gerrymandering and endorses the belief that the proposed map should avoid all elements of gerrymandering. The only allowance exception under the U.S. Voting Rights Act would be the creation of minority districts."
The real action did not happen until late June. Senate President Philip J. Rock (D-8, Oak Park) put together a map that he wanted to pass. Rock claimed that his map would create 27 safe Republican districts and 20 safe Democratic districts, leaving control of the Senate to be decided in 12 "swing" districts. His numbers could be questioned. Democrats currently held four of the safe Republican districts and eight of the swing districts.
That became irrelevant when Rock could not muster the votes in his caucus to pass the maps. A defection by Sen. Jim Rea (D-59, Christopher) who objected to the splitting of Perry County, scuttled Rock's map. Rea and Sen. William O'Daniel (D-54, Mount Vernon) had pledged to stick together if either disliked his district, and without them Rock could not pass his maps. Rea's rebellion lasted only four days, ending after some suggestions that he and Sen. Ralph Dunn (R-58, DuQuoin) be put in the same district. By that time the remap fight would be carried by Speaker Madigan. On June 27 Madigan passed his map in the House, which he said was similar to the Senate map. The chief difference, he said, "might be characterized as the lack of a district for Sen. [Richard J.] Kelly." In committee and on the floor Republicans questioned Madigan about whether blacks were packed into districts. His answer, always the same: "In my judgment this map satisfies the requirements of the federal voting rights act." Rock amended the bill in the Senate to accommodate Sen. Kelly (D-39, Hazel Crest) and the measure passed both chambers on June 30.
There was no such luck with the congressional maps. There was agreement that there should be three black districts and one Hispanic district in Chicago. But the Hispanic population centers were not contiguous, and U.S. Rep. Cardiss Collins (D-7, Chicago) was wary of splitting her district to accommodate the Hispanics. The maps that floated around were a gerrymanderer's delight, contained two Hispanic population centers connected by an unpopulated highway.
Lawmakers did better with the judicial remapping of Cook County, required for the first time this year under legislation that Republicans and blacks cooperated to pass. The map signed by Edgar on July 1 calls for 15 districts that would nominally include four white Democratic, four black Democratic, four Republican, two Hispanic and one swing.
Chicago's McCormick Place expansion without stadium
Resolution of the budget impasse paved the way for agreement on other projects, including the expansion of Chicago's McCormick Place. Passage was complicated by the cuts that lawmakers were forced to make in other parts of the budget. Legislators were wary of being tagged as prefering large projects to human service.
To win passage of the measure the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority was forced to drop plans for a domed stadium, a lesson learned following the backlash from financing plans for the new Comiskey Park. And they had to be sure that there was no downstate tax money flowing to the project. And even without a domed stadium or downstate taxes, supporters could not corral a three-fifths majority and had to settle for a July 1, 1992, effective date which could be approved with a simple majority.
The $987 million project would include:
A one-million square-foot exhibition hall with a glass enclosed concourse (the galleria).
Rehabilitation of existing exhibit space.
Rerouting of Lake Shore Drive's northbound lanes between the convention center and the Field Museum.
Money to repay the bonds to be issued the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority will come from: one dollar per passenger airport pick-up and departure fees charged taxes and limousines and a similar $.75 fee charged buses, to yield $7 million annually; a 6 percent auto rental tax in Cook County, to yield $18.1 million; a 1 percent tax on meals served in downtown restaurant (from Stevenson on the south to Diversey on the north and from Ashland on the west to the lake), to yield $11.4 million; and an increase from 12 percent to 14.5 percent in the Chicago hotel tax, to yield $16.5 million.
The bill was drawn to assure that the bonds are not a state obligation, nor may the new taxes be used for any work on Navy Pier. To overcome opposition from neighborhood groups the legislation specifies that minority and women-owned businesses must get 25 percent and 5 percent, respectively, of all contract dollars.
Elections for Chicago's local school councils
One of the other issues that awaited resolution of the tax/budget/property tax cap impasse was correcting flaws found by the Illinois Supreme Court with the Chicago school reform law. The court ruled in November that the reform effort's provisions for electing representives to 10-member local school council violated the U.S. Supreme Court's one-man one-vote requirements. The councils were the key element of the 1989 law that sought to return control of schools to the local level.
The original law had given the 10-member councils authority to hire the school principal and some discretionary spending authority. The members included two teachers elected by teachers in the school; two community members elected by residents in the area served by the school; and six parents elected by parents of children in the school.
The legislative fix in S.B. 10 makes the six parent and two community slots subject to election. Parents and community residents can then vote for five candidates for the eight positions on the ballot. The Chicago Board of Education is responsible for running the elections.
The two teacher members on each council will be appointed by the Chicago Board of Education, based upon the results of a non-binding election held by school staff. The board will similarly appoint a student to each
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high school school based on a nonbinding student election.
Lawmakers also approved some fine-tuning of the school reform law. They gave local school councils power to remove members after three consecutive absences or five absences in a year. Requirements that the district adopt an open enrollment option were delayed for a year, until the 1993-94 school year. Student members of local councils were given the power to vote, except on personnel matters. Principals were given the power to evaluate engineering and food service personnel but not the right to fire them.
Carrots and sticks for student performance
One education measure that avoided the end-of-session squeeze was an accountability bill championed by state school Supt. Robert Leininger. In response to demands for accountability, particularly from the business community, Leininger put together a business/educator committee to look at how schools function. The committee's recommendations were embodied in H.B. 885, which passed on June 27.
Under the accountability bill, the state board must develop standards for student performance using factors such as state and local testing, attendance rates, retention rates, expulsion rates and graduation rates. Schools in which student performance is below expectations must improve or be put on an academic watch list. State officials will determine whether there are extenuating circumstances that prevent meeting the standards.
School improvement plans must be revised for schools on the academic watch list. If a school remains on an academic watch list for two years, the state school superintendent will appoint a panel to work with the district, report to the State Board of Education and review and approve actions by the local board of education involved in implementing the corrections.
If a school remains on the watch list for four years, the state superintendent can remove the school board, dissolve the district and reassign the pupils to another school.
The legislation also includes provisions allowing: rewards to high performing schools; withholding of state funds for failure to submit improvement plans; waiver of rules and regulations to allow schools to allow innovation designed to improve student performance. The measure will be effective with the 1992-93 school year.
When lawmakers went home Edgar was proclaimed the winner. Without even talking about a general tax increase, the new governor got property tax caps in part of the state, half the income tax surcharge made permanent and some of the budget cuts he proposed. Almost everybody got something. Chicago got McCormick Place and a new telephone tax. The suburbs got property tax caps. Education kept its income tax surcharge money. Poor people got hurt less badly than originally proposed. Finally, everyone gets to look forward to another budget crisis next year and gets to anticipate another income tax extension fight in 1993.
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