Kansas Redux: Illinois Legislature Overrides Governor’s Austerity Politics

Kansas Redux: Illinois Legislature Overrides Governor’s Austerity Politics

It’s becoming increasingly clear that conservative governors trying to push trickle-down tax cuts for the rich and austerity for everyone else will, eventually, face a political backlash.

Once again, a bipartisan coalition of fed-up legislators has overridden their intransigent governor’s veto to keep their state from driving off the cliff. On Thursday, Illinois Republicans joined with the Democratic majority in the legislature to override Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of a $36 billion budget that raises much-needed revenue with income and corporate tax rate increases and brings an end to the longest running budget crisis in the country.

Rauner, a Republican and multimillionaire, has tried to impose his agenda of spending cuts and attacks on labor unions but has long faced staunch resistance in Springfield, which took the form of a more than two-year political standoff over the budget. The financially troubled state has not had an operating budget since Rauner took office in 2015, leading to $15 billion in missed payments and a series of credit downgrades that brought Illinois’s bond rating to the verge of “junk” status.

While Rauner had for years managed to keep Republican legislators under his thumb, ultimately the state’s worsening fiscal disaster and the governor’s obstinacy provoked 11 Republicans to join with Democrats to override his veto.

The end of the Illinois impasse comes just weeks after a similar scenario in which the Kansas’s Republican-controlled legislature, with the help of Democrats, overrode Governor Sam Brownback’s disastrous tax experiment. As I reported for the Prospect’s summer issue, in a matter of five years, Brownback’s radical tax cuts succeeded in throwing the state into fiscal chaos by blowing a massive whole in the state budget and completely failed to generate Brownback’s promised “shot of adrenaline” to the Kansas economy.

And while sanity ultimately prevailed in Kansas and Illinois, it will take both states several years to dig out from underneath the fiscal rubble left by both governors.

Trickle-down tragedies have a long tail. 

Tax Cuts for the rich. Deregulation for the powerful. Wage suppression for everyone else. These are the tenets of trickle-down economics, the conservatives’ age-old strategy for advantaging the interests of the rich and powerful over those of the middle class and poor. The articles in Trickle-Downers are devoted, first, to exposing and refuting these lies, but equally, to reminding Americans that these claims aren’t made because they are true. Rather, they are made because they are the most effective way elites have found to bully, confuse and intimidate middle- and working-class voters. Trickle-down claims are not real economics. They are negotiating strategies. Here at the Prospect, we hope to help you win that negotiation.