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State Rep. Ken Dunkin Breaks Ranks With Democrats Again


In September, he was one of three Democrats who helped sink a measure in the Illinois House of Representatives seen by many as a rebuke to Gov. Bruce Rauner. 

On Tuesday, state Rep. Ken Dunkin was the lone Democratic holdout on two bills that would have walked back changes made to social service programs by the governor. This, despite pleas from child care advocates and the risks associated with going against powerful House Speaker Mike Madigan. 

Dunkin joins "Chicago Tonight" to discuss why he chose not to cast a vote for those bills and about the mood in Springfield as the budget impasse drags on.

Carol Marin started the interview by asking, "That bill that would have fully restored those benefits: Your one vote killed it. Why?"

"Well, first of all, the governor worked out a compromise with myself, along with the Senate sponsor," Dunkin said. "And guess what? Everyone won. We got the child care funding, and the eligibility restored. That was the purpose and the goal of my negotiation with the governor, my insistence on him to restore this funding, this eligibility and to address the determination of need. So, his deal was, 'Listen, don't call the bill. I'll restore the eligibility requirement.' He went from 185 to 50 percent of the federal poverty level; he brought it back up to 162, based off the negotiations. That is a victory."

Below, more of Dunkin's responses to Marin's questions. Watch the video to hear the full conversation.

On the outcome of his stance

"It was a tremendous win. Keep in mind: The governor required a family of two to make $650 a month. Now they can make up to $2,400 a month. He restored the eligibility up to about 85 percent, compared to where it was over the last four months, of nothing, pretty much. So now we're looking at about 100,000 kids able to go to a safe and qualified child care provider. Providers are happy, and parents are happy."

On why he did not cast a vote

"I expect–and my constituents certainly expect–us to work out a compromise and solutions. Child care was at the center of the table right now, close to a billion dollars in funding. To have that program up and running, up at least at 85 percent, and until we receive a budget, a full budget, it will be back to the full restoration of 185 percent above the poverty level. That's a success. It's not about politics. At the end of the day, it's about success and getting what you need done."

On his relationship with House Speaker Michael Madigan

"I've worked with Mike Madigan for quite some time now. Sometimes it's hot, sometimes it's warm, sometimes it's cold. But guess what? I'm not down there to make sure that Mike Madigan is happy for Ken Dunkin. I'm down there to do a job for the constituents that I took the oath of office for and to serve them well, as well as throughout the state."

On his relationship with Gov. Bruce Rauner

"We're forging, hopefully, a strong partnership, or relationship, as I have with the speaker, and other Senate, House Republicans or Democrats. It's about getting things done right now, and it's about making sure that there are no complete losers, there are no complete winners. At the end of the day, the child care funding is restored."

On the budget crisis and potential for compromise

"What this compromise proved is that the governor is willing to work with us, and if I can penetrate the governor's stoic approach towards him reforming government and get him to fund child care at 85 percent–and at 100 percent next year, when we get our act together with a real budget–and to have him do an about-face with the determination of need, that's a gateway to a successful budget negotiation, pension negotiation, education negotiation. I should be, as members are, ecstatic that this governor is willing to work with us."

Watch the video to hear Carol Marin's full interview with Dunkin.

Editor’s note: During Wednesday evening’s live interview, "Chicago Tonight" incorrectly said that Rep. Dunkin voted “present” on the community services and child care bills taken up in the Illinois House on Tuesday. In fact, Dunkin did not cast a vote on either bill.


“Chicago Tonight” Springfield reporter Amanda Vinicky filmed Dunkin’s clash with daycare providers and SEIU on Tuesday. Watch it below.


Related "Chicago Tonight" stories

State Rep. Ken Dunkin: ‘I Don’t Work for Mike Madigan’

State Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) had some angry words for House Speaker Michael Madigan, in the wake of the failed override of SB 1229, a major union bill that became a flash point in the ongoing political war between Madigan and Gov. Bruce Rauner.


Labor Bill Veto Override Falls 3 Votes Short

State Reps. Dunkin (D-Chicago) and Scott Drury (D-Highwood) talk with Paris Schutz about the Illinois House’s failed override of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto.

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