Rauner tries to make an offer Democrats can’t refuse

House Speaker Michael Madigan (left) and Senate President John Cullerton . AP Photo | Seth Perlman

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]ome to the negotiating table, or else. This was the sentiment many rank-and-file state legislators were supposed to take away from Governor Bruce Rauner’s latest round of cuts on Tuesday.

These cuts were announced in a press release where Rauner’s administration called the budget House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton and their sizeable caucuses passed for the 2016 fiscal year as “phony” and “broken.” Democrats hurriedly passed their budget, which has a revenue shortfall of at least $3 billion, ahead of the May 31 regular session deadline.

“The House will be in continuous session this summer,” said Madigan on the House floor Sunday afternoon. Because of this revenue shortfall, lawmakers who left town at the end of their scheduled spring session are expected to return to the state capitol to try and pass a workable budget before the approved spending plan kicks in on July 1.

“Speaker Madigan, President Cullerton and the politicians they control refuse to act responsibly and reform state government,” Rauner Spokesman Lance Trover said. “It is time they come to the table with Governor Rauner to turnaround Illinois.”

The Rauner administration’s latest cuts include reviewing Illinois juvenile detention centers for closure, preparing to close state museums, grounding state aircraft, increasing co-payments for parents using the Department of Human Services’ Childcare Program, and the suspension of the state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

The latest cuts seem designed to break the blockade Madigan and Cullerton, two Chicago Democrats with Democratic Party supermajorities in each chamber, have used to prevent the Republican governor’s pro-business, anti-union agenda from gaining any traction with Springfield lawmakers.

“The plan passed by the General Assembly is a statement of our priorities to provide vital services and invest in the middle class,” said Rikeesha Phelon, Illinois Senate Democrat spokesperson. Phelon went onto say Rauner’s actions on Tuesday signal that the governor would rather slash child care, services for troubled youth and senior care rather than work on a bipartisan budget solution.

“The governor cannot hold the budget hostage for an agenda that has nothing to do with the budget,” said Majority Caucus Whip and Latino Caucus Co-Chair Senator Iris Y. Martinez. She added that the state needs revenue, not reforms.

“He likes to say we want to tax, but we don’t want to tax individuals. We want to find out how we can tap into some revenue out there,” said Martinez. “The bottom line is finding revenue.”

She added that she doesn’t know how Rauner is going to find $4 billion in cuts without creating negative ripples throughout the state.

Norwegian American Hospital fears Rauner cuts.

Since introducing his version of the budget back in February, the governor has continued to argue that structural changes to workers compensation and Medicaid, right to work zones, a property tax freeze and other reforms must be considered before any new taxes are created.

“I know Rauner wants to balance the budget but he’s looking at it without looking at the unintended consequences,” said Norwegian American Hospital CEO Jose Sanchez.

Sitting on the southeast corner of Humboldt Park, Sanchez says he fears what will happen to his hospital if Rauner’s proposed 2016 budget, which includes slashing Medicaid funding by $1.5 billion, get’s passed. On a yearly basis Norwegian has about 12,000 patients discharges a year, provides care to about 80,000 patients in its clinics and has about 34,000 emergency room visits, he said. Of those patients, between 55 to 57 percent rely on Medicaid.

“We did an analysis of the potential negative impact the cuts would have on Norwegian, and we saw 13 percent of our budget would vanish if the cuts are approved,” said Sanchez. “When you begin to cut uniformly across the state, you see institutions like Norwegian, that rely on Medicaid, are hurt disproportionally.”

He added that the cuts would most likely also lead to layoffs among the 1,000 people employed by Norwegian, over half of which live in the Humboldt Park area.

“So these cuts would also impact the economy and businesses stability of Humboldt Park and the families that depend on those jobs,” said Sanchez.

Another consequence Sanchez pointed out is the potential loss of preventative care services for the area, which will end up increasing the cost of patient treatment at hospitals as people who are admitted will have more chronic and serious conditions that cost more to treat.

“I’m very concerned, because I see the role of Norwegian in the Humboldt Park community. We don’t just provide health care service in a community that has some of the worst health care disparities in the city,” he said. “I have a responsibility in a community that is very poor and is suffering from issues relating to urban health, it’s not just about health care. It’s about humanity, taking care of people who need all of these services like day care and services for the elderly.”

To this end Norwegian has created a petition at Change.org to ask Rauner to remove Medicaid cuts from his 2016 budget.

As the regular session came to a close on Sunday, Cullerton gave his annual end of the session press conference. He began by reminiscing about successfully working with Springfield Republicans on legislation like marriage equality, immigrant driver’s licenses, and Medicaid reforms.

“The road we started down together six years ago I fear has been abandoned by many Republicans, lured away by the siren song of Bruce Rauner’s campaign cash,” he said. “And once again we find ourselves trying to work with a governor who continues to run campaigns rather than run the state that elected him. Rather than roll up his sleeves and work on solutions, he dictates demands and threatens those who defy him.”

For details about Norwegian’s petition and how to contact elected officials go to nahospital.wordpress.com.

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