Dem Rep. Cassidy: Deeply frustrated but voting for Madigan

Jan 11, 2017

This is a letter from state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, to her constituents. It is reprinted here with her permission.

Dear Neighbors,

The 99th General Assembly just ended without a budget deal.  I am looking ahead to the new term with deep concern for our state and in particular for the most vulnerable populations in our community who are harmed every day by the budget standoff.

Over the last two years, I have been deeply frustrated as we have moved further and further from solutions. I have been critical of both sides in the standoff and pushed hard last session against Speaker Madigan’s budget, which in my opinion would have just exacerbated an already toxic environment. Through pressure from rank and file members, we came to an agreement on a stopgap spending plan which expired on 12/31/16. We truly are right back where we started.

Now, we are again faced with a choice between a possible “grand bargain” engineered by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate or another possible short term budget starting in the House.

Details on the grand bargain budget compromise are still sketchy, but would ultimately include new revenue, reforms and cuts. Deals like this are a delicate balance and the next couple of weeks will be incredibly important.

Yesterday, the House passed a lifeline spending plan to assist human services providers and higher education institutions who were impacted by the expiration of the stopgap budget on 12/31, but it is unclear if the Senate will consider it before adjournment. They have announced that they will hold hearings on their budget compromise package beginning January 24th.

On Wednesday, we will be sworn in as members of the 100th General Assembly. With 16 new members (6 Democrats and 10 Republicans), there are several new members to get to know and build working relationships with. I value the opportunity to work with and learn from colleagues from all over the state and political spectrum, so a new session offers great promise in that way.

Another piece of good news is that the House just passed SB2872 with a bipartisan supermajority, which would aid the families of crime victims and allow for the reduction of our overcrowded prison population. It would allow prisoners to complete improvement programs to shorten their sentences, and give judges more discretion to order probation rather than jail in drug cases

With the start of a new term also comes a new election for leadership in both chambers. Speaker Madigan has been in that role for 30 years (with the exception of 2 years when democrats lost the majority) and is the second longest serving leader of any state legislative body in the history of the United States.

I have heard from several constituents urging me to vote against Speaker Madigan. I can fully appreciate the frustration expressed towards him, and I have been vocal in my belief that we need to be doing things differently than we have over the last two years. At the same time, laying all the blame for this standoff on Speaker Madigan isn’t accurate either. I have been critical of both Speaker Madigan and Governor Rauner when they deserve it and will continue to do so.

Ultimately, the election of Speaker of the House is a choice between candidates. As of right now, there are two candidates who have declared their intention to run for Speaker on Wednesday – Michael Madigan and Jim Durkin, the current House Minority Leader. My responsibility is to cast my vote for the person whose values most closely align with mine. Madigan, while flawed, supports the rights of workers, equality for women and the LGBT community, and he is pushing back against policies that hurt middle class families and those living in poverty.

I have a good working relationship with Leader Durkin, but to put him in charge of the House would effectively put Governor Rauner in the driver’s seat. I cannot in good conscience cast a vote that would ultimately harm the people I represent even more than they have been already.

Ending this stalemate is important. But ending it by allowing Governor Rauner to ram through policies aimed at ending collective bargaining, enriching private contractors, decimating child care and care for the elderly and disabled, among a long list of things our caucus has pushed back against in an effort to find a budget solution not held hostage by non-budgetary issues, is not the right answer.

Assuming Speaker Madigan is reelected this week, I intend instead to continue to forcefully push him towards more thoughtful solutions and alternative policies that will actually help the people we serve, along with a more open process to allow more ideas to come to the floor.

Related: Sen. Sam McCann holds off Rauner's effort to punish him on union vote
Mar 15, 2016

On Aug. 19, Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview, cast a vote that had no effect on the outcome of a veto effort but, seven months later, would have major consequences in…

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