Metro East Democrats: We’re Ready for Tough Votes, But…

BELLEVILLE (KMOX) — “Stop playing politics.”

That’s the message State Reps. Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville) and LaToya Greenwood (D-East St. Louis) had for Governor Bruce Rauner at a Belleville news conference Wednesday. They joined more than a dozen human and social service providers who’ve received little, if any, state money during the budget impasse that’s gone on for almost two full calendar years.

Call for Help, a 24-hour sexual assault hotline and resource center, has lost $140,000 in funding since the impasse began. The Golden Years Adult Daycare Center in Belleville would have already shut down were it not for a lottery win.

Hoffman is upset because House Democrats sent a letter to the governor asking to meet with him to discuss the budget, but they’ve still not heard a response.

“We’re willing to take the tough votes,” Hoffman says, noting also that House Democrats have passed bills addressing some of the governor’s Turnaround Agenda items: workers compensation reform, a property tax freeze, property tax reduction, procurement reform, an increase to the Earned Income Tax Credit and more. Much of that is non-budget related, which is where some of the consternation has come from — House Democrats, mainly House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) don’t want to include items like term limits and collective bargaining as part of the budget negotiation process.

Rauner has insisted on some of these items. So with Democrats willing to take the tough votes, does that mean they’d be willing to meet the governor halfway on some items with which they’re not comfortable, like collective bargaining?

It doesn’t appear so.

“(Gov. Rauner) wants to take away the rights of people to collectively bargain, and he wants to, I believe, create this crisis without any type of accountability,” Hoffman said.

Senate Democrats, with no Republican support, passed a measure over to the House before the May 31 deadline — but Hoffman says there were problems with it and his chamber couldn’t pass it as is. He says budgeteers from both the House and Senate met to try reaching consensus, but that idea was scrapped when it became clear, to them, that the governor would veto anything sent to him.

KMOX has reached out to the governor’s office asking for a response to that allegation, we’re awaiting an answer.

“I hope it does,” Hoffman said in response to a question about whether the impasse would end anytime soon, given both sides still see the other as being unreasonable. “I think it’s pretty reasonable for us to say we’re willing to take the tough votes.”

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