Following the lead of previous chief executives, Gov. Pat Quinn isn't rubberstamping his approval on every idea sent to his desk by the legislature this spring. But how he's making changes has taken a little different twist. Quinn has used his veto power to delay when several bills would become law. This week's State Capitol Q&A looks at this trend and why it matters.
Following the lead of previous chief executives, Gov. Pat Quinn isn't rubberstamping his approval on every idea sent to his desk by the legislature this spring.
But how he's making changes has taken a little different twist.
Quinn has used his veto power to delay when several bills would become law. This week's State Capitol Q&A looks at this trend and why it matters.
Q: What's the latest on the governor's bill action?
A: Quinn has whittled down over the past few weeks the more than 800 bills lawmakers sent him. He has until the end of this week to act on the dozens remaining.
The state Constitution gives him broad powers to reject or change bills. He's used total vetoes, where a bill is rejected in full, about 10 times as of Tuesday. But he's also used his amendatory veto power, where a bill is changed to make it more satisfactory, on more than 30 bills.
Several bills have been delayed through amendatory vetoes. Instead of taking effect on the day he signs it into law, or Jan. 1 of next year, he's pushed them back to next summer or later. While the law is still on the books, it has no effect until the date on which it becomes effective.
Among those delayed are measures that would increase and speed up welfare payments to families and that would more directly funnel federal money to community mental health and developmental disability services.
Q: Why is the governor delaying these bills?
A: Money and politics are a couple of factors.
Several bills lawmakers approved would create new programs or expand existing ones, such as the welfare funding boost. In some cases, millions of dollars is involved.
The state has no money to pay all the bills it has now, much less to add new expenses. So he's uttering a common refrain in these veto messages to lawmakers.
"While I agree with this goal, during this time of limited financial resources, we cannot create any new programs without available revenue to support the programs," Quinn wrote about one measure.
The amendatory veto also gives Quinn an effective political tool.
He could totally veto the bills, saying the state can't afford them. But doing that could open him up to political criticism from Comptroller Dan Hynes, running against Quinn for governor next year, or other opponents.
By delaying the effective date, Quinn can still say he's for the idea while buying more time to find the money.
"The governor has been very clear about his support for human services programs. I don't think he wants to be in a position of vetoing the bill," said Rep. Will Burns, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the welfare measure.
Q: How are lawmakers viewing these changes?
A: There's initial disappointment. Instead of being able to celebrate their measure getting approved, lawmakers have to wait a few months or longer to see any benefit.
But there are silver linings.
Lawmakers could try to generate the supermajority of votes needed to override the governor's changes. But if they simply accept the changes, then their work is done – and they don't have to try to pass the bill again. They can then focus on finding more money to pay for the new ideas.
"If we generate adequate revenues, then this would still be in place," said Rep. Kathy Ryg, a Vernon Hills Democrat sponsoring the mental health funding measure. "That seemed to be better than starting from scratch."
These delays also could give Quinn and lawmakers who support an income tax increase more momentum. If these changes are approved, lawmakers would later have to pass another measure to delay or undo them. Otherwise, the state has to find more money to pay for them in the not-so-distant future.
"I think it shows he's trying to work in good faith," Burns said. "If you don't have the money, you don't have the money."
Ryan Keith can be reached at (217) 788-1518 or firstname.lastname@example.org.