This Week in Springfield:
This week, the Illinois House and Senate met in Springfield for what is traditionally considered the beginning of the substantive legislative session. On Wednesday Governor Pritzker presented his joint State of the State and Budget Address. For more on my reaction to that address, keep reading.
Additionally, Friday marks the last day for filing of House Bills. As I mentioned last week, the list of filed House Bills has grown to around 2400 pieces of legislation. As I review these bills over the coming weeks, I will highlight important or noteworthy bills in this newsletter. Again, if there are issues that are important to you, or bills you would like me to sign on to as a co-sponsor, please let me know.
You can find a list of the current bills I have introduced here.
Hot Topic of the Week:
Governor’s State of the State and Budget Address
Like every Budget Address from a Governor, the speech Wednesday from Governor Pritzker was a wish list of what he would like to get done in this legislative session. While Governor Pritzker painted a rosy picture of Illinois in his made-for-tv speech, what I’m more interested in are the numbers behind his budget proposal and finding common ground on our shared priorities.
One of the top takeaways from Governor Pritzker’s budget proposal is the growth of government and government spending. While the Governor admits in his proposal that Illinois is projected to have a 3% decrease in overall revenue next year, his budget address includes $2.7 billion in new spending, almost 8% increase over last year. This is an unsustainable rate of spending growth. Additionally, much of this new proposed spending is for new programs that will continue to increase state obligations in the future.
On the Governor’s priorities of investing in K-12 education, early childhood education, and increasing funding for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), I am willing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common ground. The obligation now lies with the legislature to craft a state budget. Throughout this budget process, I take a balanced approach – pushing for collaboration on issues where we can find bipartisan agreement, and fighting for accountability that taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly.
My top priority as I enter this budget process will be structural changes and investments in DCFS. As I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, our Child Welfare system is broken and the children who are under our care deserve better. I am glad that the Governor has recognized the need for increased investment in our Department of Children and Family Services. However, increased funding alone is not going to produce better outcomes. I look forward to working with anyone who will work with me on making sure our Child Welfare system is accountable and better equipped to keep children safe.
For more of my reaction, you can watch my reaction immediately after the speech here.
You can also find a detailed description of the Governor’s budget proposal and an interactive budget tool here.
Personnel and Pensions Committee:
The Personnel & Pensions Committee again met this morning for what is called a Subject Matter hearing, a hearing where no legislation is considered for voted on, but rather we have an opportunity to ask questions. This week’s hearing focused on the State Employee Retirement System, Judicial Retirement System, and the General Assembly Retirement System.
A quick background on GARS:
In Illinois, legislators are allowed to enroll in this pension system and can receive a pension for life after less than a decade of service. The pension is based upon legislative salaries and Illinois legislators are also some of the highest paid state legislators in the nation. The General Assembly Retirement System has long been and remains the worst funded pension system in the state and it is only bound to get worse.
I have joined over 50 of my colleagues in the House and the Senate to refuse the General Assembly State pension. The position of legislator is not meant to be a full-time and lifelong career. It should be treated as a public service. That is why I have co-sponsored a bill for years that closes the General Assembly Retirement System to new members. This bill alone will not fix or fully fund the system, but it would be a good start.
The Week Ahead:
- Next week, the Illinois House is scheduled for legislative session Tuesday, February 21st through Friday, February 24th.
- Monday we will celebrate President’s Day
Stay Up To Date:
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