It was Groundhog Day in the Illinois Senate this week, as Illinois Democrats pushed through yet another hollow promise, once again approving a spending plan without the funding to cover it. The Democrats’ newest proposal promises nearly $4 billion to human service providers and higher education, but fails to identify a way to pay for the spending.
Also this week, the Senate Executive Committee considered one of several anticipated proposals to change the state’s flawed education funding formula. Republicans, who have long called for fixing the formula, expressed concerns that the proposal was moving forward without critical data from the State Board of Education that would provide a more complete picture of how the legislation would affect Illinois’ school districts. They also pointed out that school administrators and teachers, taxpayers, education experts and other key stakeholders should be at the table when crafting a new education funding reform proposal.
Finally, the four legislative leaders had their first meeting of the New Year with Governor Bruce Rauner. Though the budget stalemate is far from resolved, the meeting was viewed as a positive step. With the impasse dragging into its tenth month, Congressman Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton) reached across the aisle, sending a letter to House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton this week asking for bipartisan compromise to end the state’s budget stalemate. Roskam, a former member of the Illinois General Assembly, noted that Republicans have offered compromise solutions and cautioned against the kind of empty spending proposals being pushed by Democrat lawmakers.
Sen Barickman welcomes high school students to take part in mock legislative hearing at the Capitol
Dozens of high school students from across the 53rd Senate District came to the Illinois State Capitol for a unique, hands-on experience in state government on Wednesday, April 13. This experience is part of an annual program, the Youth Advisory Council, put together by Sen. Barickman. The Youth Advisory Council aims to get local students engaged in state government.
“This is an opportunity for students to learn more about how their government works by taking part in the process themselves,” said Sen. Barickman. “The hope is to connect with them at an age when many may not be engaged in the very government that affects them every day.”
Sen. Barickman’s Youth Advisory Council simulated a Higher Education Committee hearing, which focused on legislation that was proposed by the students at the group’s fall meeting in Bloomington.
The students served as lawmakers, lobbyists, journalists and concerned citizens for the mock hearing. Their mock legislative proposal would have given college applicants the ability to use portfolios in place of standardized tests in the college admission process. After intense lobbying, debate and negotiations, the mock committee eventually voted “no” on the proposal.
“I think the experience offered the students a chance to learn not only about how the process works, but how hard it is to actually pass legislation,” said Sen. Barickman.
The students started their day at the Capitol with a short tour that included a visit to the Senate floor and the chance to meet Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. Then the students headed to a Senate committee room where they heard from lawmakers from both parties, a lobbyist, and statehouse journalists before their mock hearing began.
“My favorite part was the mock hearing, I think that brought a good glimpse of the backroom dealing sort of thing, and also just the way things are presented and the way we discuss it and try to work to a resolution,” said Cissna Park High School student Conner Kaeb. “I tried to push an amendment, it failed, but it was a fun time.”
“Usually at my school there’s not a lot of people who like to talk about politics, so I love coming to places like this and hear other people that have the same interests as me talk, even if it’s a different view or political party” said Normal Community High School student Emily Hamm. “I definitely have an interest in politics, and I want to major or minor in political science. This has really helped me explore my options and really showed me that this is what I want to do.”
Groundhog Day in the Illinois Senate
On Wednesday, April 13, Senate Republicans felt as if they had awoken in the 1993 comedy classic “Groundhog Day,” when Democrats advanced yet another hollow promise, once again pushing through a massive spending plan without the funds to cover it. The latest proposal promised nearly $4 billion to human service providers and higher education but failed to identify a way to pay for the spending.
The proposal has been sent to the Governor, who has indicated he intends to veto the measure.
Republicans criticized the Democrat plan as yet another empty promise, pointing as an alternative to their own proposal to fund certain social service programs that GOP leaders recently introduced. Unlike the plans introduced by Democrat legislators, the Republicans plan is accompanied by a way to pay for the spending.
The Republican proposal would fund seniors in the Community Care Program; veterans; services for those with mental health issues and developmental disabilities; support for homeless youth and veterans; programs like Adult Redeploy that are critical to recent criminal justice reform efforts; addiction treatment, sexual assault services and prevention; and the Special Olympics.
Education funding proposal heard
The first of what is expected to be several education funding reform plans was heard this week in the Senate Executive Committee. Senate Republican lawmakers, who have been vocal about the need to reform Illinois’ flawed education funding formula, expressed concerns that numbers are not yet available from the State Board of Education to give a full picture of how the proposal would affect school districts throughout the state.
During the hearing on the bill, Republicans said changing the state’s education funding formula should be part of a larger conversation that gets all stakeholders involved. Lawmakers must perform their due diligence to ensure that Illinois students receive the funding they need to receive a quality education. That involves engaging in a comprehensive discussion on school funding, reliant on input from schools, taxpayers, education experts and other key stakeholders.
While truly reforming the state’s education funding formula will take time, Republicans have a proposed a solution to provide funding to school districts now. For the first time in seven years Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed fully funding General State Aid (GSA) to schools. The Republican plan, which includes Foundation Level funding and Low-Income Grants, provides more money for K-12 education now, period.
Roskam calls for bipartisan action
In a letter to House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, Congressman Peter Roskam, a former member of the Illinois General Assembly, called for bipartisan compromise to end Illinois’ budget impasse and cautioned against empty spending proposals.
“To date, the governor and Republican leaders have rightly rejected billion dollar spending bills that promised to spend money the state didn’t have. Low-income college students cannot use IOUs to fund their MAP scholarships. Forcing the state deeper into debt does not free up resources for our social safety net,” said Roskam.
Roskam also noted that Gov. Bruce Rauner and Republicans in the legislature have offered a number of solutions to end the budget impasse through bipartisan compromise.
Calling for bipartisan action, Roskam said, “We need real solutions to our state’s problems – bipartisan solutions both Democrats and Republicans in the legislature can support and the governor can sign into law. Now is not the time for partisanship or game-playing – now is the time for statesmanship.”