SPRINGFIELD, IL –A complete and constitutional budget remains elusive more than two weeks beyond the start of the state’s new budget year on July 1. It’s disappointing, considering it’s been six months since Gov. Bruce Rauner delivered the annual budget message Feb. 18.
Finding a solution to the impasse was further complicated after the Democrat-controlled Senate took unprecedented action approving a one-month budget plan and then separately overriding five of the Governor’s vetoes of the unbalanced and unconstitutional budget they passed in May.
The One-month Budget Failure
The one-month budget is a failure on two points, according to State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington). The first is that it is only for one month. The Legislature is required to pass a 12-month budget to meet its constitutional responsibilities. The second point of failure is that the one-month plan is simply one-twelfth of the bad deal the majority party approved in May. He added that if budget spending isn’t balanced with budget revenue, it’s unacceptable whether it’s a one-month or 12-month plan.
The Governor and legislative Republicans aren’t the only ones opposed to the temporary budget. Organizations, including Illinois Partners for Human Services, the Responsible Budget Coalition and Voices for Illinois Children, have all come out against the temporary proposal saying a “Band-Aid budget” will do little, if anything, for many human service providers. They are urging a year-long, balanced budget to help Illinois’ most vulnerable residents.
The Senate Democrats also took action to override five of the 20 budget vetoes issued by the Governor last month. The majority admittedly passed a bogus budget in May, acknowledging their plan would spend $4 billion more than the state expects to receive in tax revenue during Fiscal Year 2016. Gov. Rauner issued the vetoes to keep his promise about addressing Illinois’ historic fiscal crisis brought on by years of overspending.
Reform Illinois and End Budget Crisis
Getting Illinois’ fiscal house in order goes hand-in-hand with making government more efficient and revitalizing the state’s economy, which is why Sen. Barickman supports a set of basic, common-sense reforms.
Those reforms include: a property tax freeze; freezing property taxes and giving local governments the tools to operate in a less costly manner; eliminating costly business regulations that make it harder for employers to hire new workers and expand their businesses; and passing good government reforms that return control back to the people, such as taking politicians out of the process of drawing their own legislative districts and term limits.
Sen. Barickman believes structural reforms and a responsible, constitutional state budget are directly linked because growing the economy, generating additional tax revenue and making government more efficient impacts the state’s ability to provide and pay for government services.
While the lack of a real budget is troubling for government operations and limits the ability to direct money to programs and services, many essential services are continuing as first reported last week. The public should be aware that:
·Schools will start on time.
·Illinois State Police will remain on duty.
·Prisons will remain open—with prison guards on duty.
·Illinois’ Emergency Management (disaster response) personnel will keep working.
·A wide range of health and human services mandated by the federal government and federal courts will continue to operate.
·Funding transfers to local governments will continue automatically.
·If you are waiting for a refund from the Department of Revenue, that refund is still coming.
·Retired state employee pensions and benefits will be paid, current State employee benefits will remain in place and salaries will eventually be paid when the budget is signed.
·The State will pay its debt obligations.
New Report on Illinois Food Stamp Aid
A number of economic realities are evidence that a turnaround is needed. Illinois’ economic recovery from the 2008 recession trails the nation, the unemployment rate remains above the national average and workforce participation is at all-time lows while Illinois’ job creation lags behind many of its neighboring states.
The latest evidence was revealed this week by the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI). The public policy think tank reported Illinois now has a greater percentage of its citizens on the federal food stamp program known as SNAP than any other Midwest state. According to IPI, nearly 16 percent of Illinois residents are getting aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
State Museum Hearing
Also during the week, the Legislature’s bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CoGFA) held a hearing about the possibility of closing the Illinois State Museum as part of ongoing preparations for state spending reductions should the budget impasse continue. The hearing was held to comply with the State Facilities Closure Act passed into law several years ago. If the closure goes forward, other operations tied to the State Museum would also shut down. They include, a research and collection center in Springfield, the Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown and Illinois artisan shops in Lockport, Chicago and Whittington. The State Museum is part of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Bills Signed Into Law
Gov. Rauner took action on a number of bills during the week, including the signing of several bills:
·Powdered Caffeine Prohibition (Senate Bill 9): Prohibits the sale or offering of powdered caffeine to anyone younger than 18.
·Powdered Alcohol Ban (Senate Bill 67): Prohibits the sale of products consisting of or containing powdered alcohol in Illinois by creating a Class A misdemeanor for a violation and a Class 4 felony for a second or subsequent violations.
·Bobcat Hunting (House Bill 352): Allows bobcat hunting in Illinois during a set season. Sets the bobcat season from Nov. 1 to Feb. 15.
· SIDS Informational (House Bill 1407): Requires hospitals to include in their instructional materials regarding Sudden Infant Death Syndrome information developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics or a statewide or nationally recognized SIDS or medical association.
·Inter-Country Re-Adoption (House Bill 3079): Streamlines the adoption process for families adopting children from another country. It also establishes better practices for post-adoption services that are offered by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
·Motor fuel/Service Stations List (House Bill 4115): Improves access to information on the addresses and phone numbers for gasoline and service stations that provide assistance to persons with disabilities.
Hot Weather Tips
The Illinois Department of Public Health has tips and helpful information for staying cool and healthy during hot and humid days. The agency said people most vulnerable for heat-related illness include the elderly, those who work or exercise outdoors, infants and children, the homeless or poor, and people with a chronic medical condition.
·Stay in air-conditioned buildings. Cooling centers can be found by logging onto http://www.illinois.gov/KeepCool/SitePages/CoolingCenters.aspx.
·Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device.
·Limit outdoor activity, especially midday when it is the hottest part of the day, and avoid direct sunlight.
·Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
·Take cool showers or baths to lower your body temperature.
·Check on at-risk friends, family, and neighbors at least twice a day. These may include seniors and people with chronic health conditions.
·Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to hydrate.
·Drink two to four cups of water every hour while working or exercising outside.
·Avoid alcohol or beverages with high amounts of sugar.
·Check the local news for extreme heat warnings.