On June 17, State Senator Daniel Biss held a  public forum on budget issues at the Levy Center. Approximately 60 persons attended.

He said Governor Bruce Rauner has been advocating for his “Turnaround Agenda,” which focuses on labor unions and middle class workers. It also proposes freezing property taxes and limiting workers’ rights in bringing lawsuits.

These things “don’t fix the budget problem,” said Senator Biss. “There was a lot of attention paid to the issues raised by Gov. Rauner, but not to the budget.”

Sen. Biss said the Democrats passed a spending plan, which he viewed as embodying a compromise on expenditures because it includes cuts in a lot of areas. It does not include a revenue plan, though, and for that reason, Sen. Biss said he voted against it.

He added that he thinks, “Republicans will vote for taxes when Gov. Rauner wants it and not a minute before.”

Legislators are returning to Springfield every Tuesday, and need to compromise to reach a budget. “I don’t see we’re on the path right now. Frankly, I’m alarmed by that,” Sen. Biss said. The tone is bad, with “finger-pointing. “The likeliest outcome is we won’t have a budget by July 1. If that happens, there will be significant harm to a lot of people.”

One person asked about a possible freeze of property taxes. Sen. Biss said if the legislature just approved a property tax freeze if would “really hurt school districts.” He said John Cullerton, president of the Senate, was right in asking Gov. Rauner about coupling a property tax freeze with a reform in the State’s funding of education. “If we freeze property taxes, we could get to a better way to fund schools,” said Sen. Biss.

Sen. Biss discussed a wide range of other topics in the one-and-a-half forum, ranging from the impact of consent decrees requiring the State to fund certain things, continuous appropriations, the Governor’s authority to unilaterally cut funding various programs, economic policies, term limits, adopting a graduated income tax, the Democrats articulating a vision, and other issues.

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...