SPRINGFIELD, IL –Illinois’ budget standoff continued this week as the new fiscal year began without a state spending plan in place. Despite Republicans’ calls for open, bipartisan negotiations, Democrat leaders have continued to drag their feet, refusing to compromise on a permanent budget solution and instead pushing an unbalanced one-month budget through the Senate.
While things may look grim, State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) says he continues to be hopeful that legislators will roll up their sleeves and work together, in a bipartisan way, to do what is right for the people of Illinois.
Gov. Bruce Rauner said “no” to cost-of-living salary increases for legislators on July 1, amendatorily vetoing Senate Bill 1354. The Governor also acted on a capital improvement plan this week, approving investments in Illinois’ physical infrastructure while using the line-item veto to take out earmarks, including renovations at the State Capitol Building, from the bill.
The Senate held another Committee of the Whole this week to discuss reforms to Illinois’ workers’ compensation system. Reform proponents say they want to ensure the system is there to protect injured workers, while also reducing the cost burden on job creators. Illinois has the 7th highest workers’ compensation premiums in the nation, costs that deter business expansion and drive jobs away from Illinois.
Also this week, a new proposal emerged at the Capitol that would freeze property taxes for two years for all units of local government, except Chicago, and create a commission to propose a new funding formula for Illinois’ schools. Addressing these important issues are top priorities for Senate Republicans; however, they expressed concerns about the specific legislation, noting they could not support the proposal in its current form.
Budget compromise remains elusive as new fiscal year begins
A new fiscal year began on July 1 without a state budget in place, a situation Illinois has been in before. On July 1, 1991, the state faced a similar budget stalemate that came to an end only when legislative leaders and then-Governor Jim Edgar worked together to reach a compromise.
This willingness to compromise, the Chicago Tribune noted in an editorial, is the biggest difference between 1991 and 2015, “… Rauner is the one who has been showing flexibility. He has revised, reduced his expectations for an agreement. The Democratic leaders have not.” You can read the full story here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-illinois-budget-rauner-madigan-edit-0701-20150630-story.html
Facing the difficult task of running a state government without a budget, this week Gov. Rauner reassured state employees that they will be paid for their work, and said his administration is doing everything possible to ensure essential services continue uninterrupted.
During a visit to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency on June 30, Rauner told state employees, “I want to make darn sure you guys are paid, you guys are paid on time, you don’t miss any payroll, and you’re paid 100 percent of your salary, not some lesser amount.”
While the road to “fiscal sanity” is sure to be a bumpy one, Rauner and legislative Republicans remain open to compromise and committed to passing a balanced, constitutional budget and job-creating, structural reforms needed to put Illinois back on track.
Senate Democrats approve unbalanced one-month budget
While the Governor and legislative Republicans have remained open and willing to work toward a permanent solution on the budget, this week Senate Democrats approved a temporary, one-month budget that the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget cautioned is out of balance.
In a memo to the Governor, Tim Nuding, Director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, said, “…this bill marches the taxpayers of Illinois toward an unbalanced budget one month at a time.” According to Nuding, the one-month budget represents little, if any, improvement over the state budget that passed the Legislature this spring. The Democrat lawmakers’ budget, which was nearly $4 billion out of balance, was vetoed last week.
State Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon) pointed out during a committee hearing that ignoring the Illinois Constitution’s requirement for a balanced budget is how we got into this mess, and ignoring it again isn’t the solution.
During floor debate on the proposal, State Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) said, “We don’t need a one-month fix. Illinois is fundamentally broken and we need substantial reform.”
While the Democrats’ one-month budget passed in the Senate, an identical measure introduced in the House of Representatives failed to receive the required votes, leaving the proposal’s future uncertain.
Senate Republicans remain optimistic that through bipartisan negotiations, a more long-term solution to the state’s fiscal problems can be reached.
Gov says no pay-raises for legislators with amendatory veto
Gov. Rauner said “no” to cost-of-living pay increases for legislators this week, issuing an amendatory veto on Senate Bill 1354.
The Governor noted that there is no room in the budget to increase salaries for legislators, “A balanced budget requires shared sacrifice.”
According to Rauner, “Budget implementation bills must give us the tools to implement a balanced and realistic budget, and this change is an important step in closing our budget deficit.”
Senate Bill 1354 will be returned to the Senate where the chamber can vote either to override the Governor’s veto or accept the changes, before sending it over to the House.
Line-item veto eliminates certain projects in capital improvement legislation
The majority of a capital plan that will invest in Illinois’ public infrastructure was approved this week by Gov. Rauner; however, he also used his line-item veto authority to remove several projects contained in the proposal.
Rauner’s message on his bill action focused largely on the benefit of continued investment in public infrastructure and its critical importance to economic development. Among the line-items vetoed by the Governor are earmarks for things like Capitol building renovations.
Explaining these line-item vetoes, the Governor said, “We must also ensure that our limited taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, and that we prioritize funds for critical deferred maintenance. In light of the General Assembly’s unbalanced budget and the need for additional savings, I am vetoing earmarks, including Capitol building renovations, in order to make those funds available for other priorities.”
The legislation will be implemented with the Governor’s changes unless the House chooses to vote to restore the funding that was vetoed.
Rain continues to plague farmers
Heavy rains continue to drench fields and pastures across Illinois, putting farmers further behind as they attempt to harvest wheat and hay. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Illinois farmers only had an average of 1.1 days rated as suitable for field work last week, though many fields were still too wet for work during the limited sunshine.
So far, farmers have only managed to bale 8% of their second cutting of alfalfa hay, well behind the five-year average of 18%, and the winter wheat harvest stands at only 38% complete, compared to the five-year average of 59%. In addition, 93% of the statewide soybean crop has been planted, behind its five-year average of 97%.
Crop conditions are beginning to slip as well, with 62% of corn rated as “good” or “excellent,” and only 52% of soybeans receiving the same rating. That compares to last week’s ratings of 70% and 60%, respectively.