With Obama gone, Illinois Democrats and Republicans get back to fighting

By Chicago Tribune

Here is the Morning Spin, a weekday feature from the Tribune that catches readers up to what’s going on in Illinois government and politics.

The afterglow of a wistful President Barack Obama’s call in Springfield for a “better politics” of civility might not even last 24 hours at the Capitol.

House Democrats have resurrected a labor-backed bill that would prevent a lockout or strike if an impasse is reached between state employees and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration.

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The measure will go before a House committee Thursday morning, a day after Obama’s lofty speech to state lawmakers.

Last year, Gov. Rauner vetoed a similar measure, which Democrats in the House failed to overturn when House Speaker Michael Madigan was unable to keep his veto-proof majority unified. The state’s collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 expired July 1, the start of the new budget year.

Rauner has asked the Illinois Labor Relations Board to determine whether his administration and AFSCME have reached a stage in negotiations that would allow him to bypass further talks and impose his own terms on the roughly 38,000 state workers the union represents.

That review could take months, and Rauner and the union have agreed to keep workers on the job in the meantime. But if Rauner ultimately succeeds in putting a stop to the talks, the union will have to decide whether to go on strike for the first time.

AFSCME has distributed fliers urging members to call their lawmakers to support the bill, saying Rauner is purposefully seeking a disruption in state services. Rauner’s office contends “AFSCME only wants to play by their rules,” saying if the bill becomes law it would force employee layoffs.

Here’s more about the budget.

*Budget watchdog group wants tax hikes: We’re less than a week away from the governor’s budget address, and the Civic Federation is out with its annual recommendations.

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The nonprofit budget watchdog group’s report is only a set of suggestions, but it offers yet another lens into how deeply Illinois’ financial hole has been dug.

Eight months into the 2016 financial year without a budget, the group says it would be “not responsible” to assume that Illinois could dig out of its $4.6 billion deficit in the final months of the year. And with tax revenues down after the temporary income tax hikes began rolling back in January 2015, the financial picture for the year that begins July 1 also is not looking good.

For the years ahead, the Civic Federation suggests returning to the higher income tax rates — 5 percent for individuals and 7 percent for corporations — and taxing some forms of retirement income. It also wants to see new taxes imposed on consumer services and a temporary suspension of the sales tax exemption for food and over-the-counter drugs.

To cut down on the state’s immediate pension costs, the group would have the state absorb the Chicago teachers’ pension system into the fund that covers Downstate and suburban teachers.

Under this plan, all school districts would start picking up the normal costs of their pension plans, relieving the state of those payments. Currently, only Chicago Public Schools pays the normal costs for its pension plan.

If those and other recommendations were put in place, the report envisions a scenario where the state could use the new revenue to completely eliminate its backlog of unpaid bills by 2020 and establish a rainy day fund.

It’s worth noting that these suggestions don’t account for geographic and political differences at the Capitol that would make it difficult to put such a plan in place. 

*Rauner alum gets new gig: Former Rauner campaign manager Chip Englander has joined the presidential bid of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio after his initial candidate, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, dropped out.

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