As your first-year State Representative, I’d like to highlight some things I have brought before the General Assembly, and to my constituents, in order to make our state government more efficient, and also keep the lines of communication open during the budget impasse.
Ideas for Illinois
This past month I was happy to initiate my new think-tank “Ideas for Illinois.” At www.ideasforillinois.com, I have asked any constituents with cost-saving measures for the state to submit them for potential delivery to the House Floor in the form of legislation. There are many ideas I know we could initiate, and as I have presented many myself this year, I would also love to hear yours. No idea is too big or too small. With this idea I hope to bring everyone’s idea to the table, and allow them to be heard as they should. The State of Illinois is not in a position to continue to allow your tax dollars to not be spent as efficiently as possible, and I’d like to give you a voice in how the state can better do this.
Constitutional Pension Proposal
With our state facing so many fiscal challenges, it is important to remember that many of our challenges are interconnected. A failed policy decision in one area often leads to other negative results in another area. For example, skipping pension payments in the past has led to a higher percentage of our current budget being used to “catch up.” It also has contributed to lowering our credit rating which means more money is needed for interest payments on loans. This crowds out funding for basic government operations. On the flip side, reducing our unfunded pension liabilities would have the opposite effect in the long term.
Returning our pension funds to appropriate balances and increasing our credit rating would save the state billions. We have to start taking a series of small steps that have long term benefits and lead to additional savings. My pension reform proposal is a significant step in positive direction and would have a multiplier effect moving forward. Please check out my proposal, which I was happy to see mentioned in a recent edition of Crain’s Chicago Business.
Heroes Way Designation Program
With Veterans Day just passing, I’d like to highlight legislation I am currently working on to create the “Heroes Way Designation Program,” which aims to pay tribute to Illinois’ fallen soldiers by designating roadways with their namesake. In honor of Illinois’ Veterans, their families, and all those that have sacrificed for this country, I feel this designation is something that should’ve been initiated years ago. My hope is that Veterans and their families realize the level of appreciation the State of Illinois, and our nation, holds for them.
Pancreatic Cancer Awareness – House Resolution 838
Recently it has been my privilege to work with Nora Campos, a constituent who has been driven to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer after watching it take her husband’s life. Together we drafted House Resolution 838, which recognized November 13 as World Pancreatic Cancer Day in the State of Illinois. It was quickly adopted in the Illinois House this week. On November 13, 39 municipalities agreed to display purple at their own local landmarks. It was such a privilege to work with a passionate constituent like Nora, who works directly with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network to raise awareness and funds to fight the terrible disease.
Budget NewsHouse Democrats block budget compromise, put politics above solutions.
For months, the Democratic opposition to change in Springfield has called for “reasonable” discussions and compromise regarding the budget impasse. It’s clear by their actions this week, with a compromise very much on the table, that majority Democrats in the House have absolutely no intention of compromising and would rather put partisan politics above budget solutions. The Illinois Democrats who have perpetuated this budget impasse are making promises they can’t deliver. They don’t have the votes to increase taxes, so instead of negotiation and compromise, they’ve again created a spectacle in Springfield. They’ve indignantly demanded we pass a budget we can’t afford and have not once offered a way to pay for it. Without a budget to restrain out-of-control spending, the State’s financial spigot is wide open. A series of judicial actions accompanied by a reckless, piecemeal approach to appropriations has forced spending at levels higher than we’ve ever seen. When projected out over a year, Illinois is on pace to spend $37 billion, over a billion more than last year and nearly $5 billion more than we are projected to take in.
Illinois needs real reforms along with a truly balanced budget, one that sets our priorities and provides for our most vulnerable citizens, while responsibly spending our tax dollars.
Governor agrees to compromise on child care eligibility, while Democrat action fails.
A spokesperson for Governor Rauner issued a statement on Monday, November 9 describing the move: “As a result of bipartisan discussions with legislators concerning the future of the Child Care Assistance Program, the Rauner administration today plans to amend the emergency rule it filed at the beginning of the fiscal year. Under the amended rule, income eligibility will rise to 162% of the federal poverty level while current co-pays will remain intact. Other eligibility and restrictions will also be lifted pending further review and legislative consultation. Additionally, the governor’s office will establish a bipartisan, bicameral task force aimed at ensuring the long-term stability of the program.”
After legislators in both parties urged Governor Rauner to compromise, the Governor acted in good faith to restore eligibility for the overwhelming majority of families receiving child care assistance. Compromise language supported by the Governor brings CCAP eligibility up to 162% of the federal poverty level (FPL), which is higher than most of Illinois’ neighboring states. This is a reasonable compromise that protects child care for the working poor, while at the same time holding the line on spending. House Democrats responded by thumbing their noses at the compromise and forging ahead with a vote on SB 570, legislation to keep CCAP eligibility at 185% of FPL. Despite bipartisan efforts to achieve a reasonable compromise, Democrats refused to back down and their legislation ultimately failed on a vote of 70-35-4 (71-vote supermajority required for passage).
Despite agreement on DON score, Democrats pursue override.
Earlier this year, Governor Rauner responded to budget shortfalls by issuing rules to raise the Determination of Need (DON) score used to establish eligibility for long-term care.
Democrats subsequently passed legislation that would return the DON score threshold to the original number of 29. I went against my party and the Governor and voted with the Democrats to keep the DON score as-is. The Governor didn’t fully veto the bill. Instead, he amended it slightly (an improvement in my opinion) and sent it back for a full vote. On the second pass, I voted with the Governor and the compromise.
In spite of this compromise, Democrats brought the bill to the House floor on November 10 for an override vote. Once again, the Democrats’ move against a negotiated solution failed on a vote of 70-38-1.
Motor fuel tax legislation passes, but Madigan puts a hold on it. With Illinois now in the fifth month of Fiscal Year 2016 without an approved budget in place, many important appropriations have been left in limbo.
HB 4305 authorizes the distribution of motor fuel tax (MFT) receipts to local governments.
These funds are vitally important to municipalities and townships for local road projects and public safety. House Republicans successfully persuaded the Governor to join us in our support for providing this essential funding for MFT, 9-1-1 services and additional public safety funds.
After reaching an agreement to pass HB 4305, the legislation was overwhelmingly approved by the House on November 10. However, Speaker Madigan used his draconian House Rules to put a hold on forwarding the bill to the Senate, with Majority Leader Currie filing a motion to reconsider the vote. This parliamentary hold means MFT receipts and 9-1-1 funds will not be distributed until the Speaker removes his blockage and the bill can be passed by the Senate.
For those of you on social media, I invite you to “Like” my official Facebook page to stay up-to-date on what I’m working on in Springfield, and here at home.
I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving next week around friends and family, and please do not hesitate to contact my office at (815) 254-0000 if you require its assistance.