This Week in Springfield:
The pace of action in this week’s session could only be described as glacial. Of the hundreds of bills still remaining on the docket, we passed a total of 53 bills this week. We have not seen a draft of a state budget, and since Republicans have been completely shut out of the budget talks we have no idea what’s going to drop on us or when. Today was originally scheduled in January to be the adjournment date for the House and the Senate, but now it’s anyone’s guess as to when we’ll actually adjourn.
As you read this, we’ve blown through the scheduled May 19 adjournment date and are now scheduled to return on Wednesday. The reason for that is because the ‘Powers That Be’ forgot to do a procedural step that’s used to bring a budget from the Senate to the House. Without getting into the weeds, it’s just another example of how badly things are being run by the majority party. I also think that the various factions of the Democrat majority are at each other’s throats over spending priorities, and they haven’t yet figured out how they’re going to plug the $1.1 billion hole they’ve blown in the budget by giving Medicaid coverage to those here illegally, for which there is no Federal reimbursement and the $614 million downward revision in revenue announced this week.
I took to the floor on Friday to talk about it.
Hot Topic of the Week:
No Budget? No Fiscal Notes? No Revenue Estimate? No Problem!
Everyone knows that one of the biggest jobs of the General Assembly is to pass a budget – a plan for spending the billions of taxpayer dollars sent each year to Springfield. However, the more technical parts of the budget process are less well-known. So, here’s a 30,000-foot level update on the budget process and a more detailed look at how the process is supposed to work.
Each year, according to state statute, there is supposed to be an official revenue estimate adopted by both houses of the legislature. This non-binding resolution is a statement of how much revenue the state expects to bring in during the next fiscal year and is meant to be a starting point for bipartisan* conversations on a balanced budget. After all, how can you pass a balanced budget if you don’t first start with an agreed upon spending limit? As you likely guessed, there has been no revenue estimate. In fact, there has not been a revenue estimate adopted throughout my tenure in the legislature.
Additionally, there are appropriations committees within the House and the Senate which are tasked with examining specific parts of the budget, hearing testimony from those requesting new spending, scrutinizing past spending, and participating in a public and bipartisan* budget drafting process. Again, as you can imagine, appropriations committees have held meetings to hear from those requesting spending, but that is all that has come from those committees.
And what about all of the new bills that have passed that cost the taxpayers money? We have a tool in the legislature called notes. Any legislator can request a variety of notes on a proposed piece of legislation. These notes are meant as a tool to provide legislators and the public with information on the impact of the policy change before a vote is taken on the proposal and are meant to be important tools to help legislators make the most informed decision before voting. However, throughout this last week dozens of requests for notes, especially fiscal notes, have been ruled “inapplicable” in roll call votes instigated by the majority party. A fiscal note provides information on the policy’s potential cost to taxpayers.
So, while the majority party continues to pass legislation that will cost taxpayers at the state and local level, they have blocked the ability to know the fiscal impact before taking a vote on the bills. I spoke on the importance of fiscal notes on the House floor when I pointed out a spending increase included in a pension bill described in a note that had been ruled “inapplicable”:
As we enter the last days of the legislative session, there is no budget, no accountability, and tools throughout the process to promote transparency have been ignored. The majority party may just see this as business as usual, but for taxpayers throughout the state, this is a big problem.
* Adjective: bipartisan; adjective: bi-partisan
- involving the agreement or cooperation of two political parties that usually oppose each other’s policies.
- a word typically not used in conjunction with governance in the State of Illinois.
Child Welfare Working Group Progress
A couple of weeks ago, I told you about a press conference my colleagues and I held describing the progress of our working groups. I shared with you my remarks which focused on improving the child welfare system and House Republican proposals to help our most vulnerable children.
I want to share my comments during that press conference’s question and answer session, where I highlighted our work in the Adoption & Child Welfare committee and the collaborative approach we must take with DCFS to make progress for our kids. I know that everyone in Springfield understands the need to fix our child welfare system and I am committed to working with everyone who will work with me to fix this.
National Police Week
This National Police Week we say thank you to the heroes across our state who wear the badge. Thank you to everyone in our local area who steps up and serves our communities.
The Week Ahead:
– Who knows? I’ll keep you updated.
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