When it became evident that a balanced budget deal was not going to brought to the House floor prior to our regular session adjournment date of May 31, House Republicans filed a budget bill, HB 6585, to cover both Fiscal Year 2016 “stopgap” expenditures and some urgently-needed Fiscal Year 2017 expenditure areas. It would have appropriated badly-needed money to a wide variety of essential and job-creating state agencies and educational institutions, such as state universities and prisons. The appropriations contained in this bill were fully paid for from existing revenues and would not have increased the state’s debt. HB 6585 was filed by House Republican leader Jim Durkin on Tuesday, May 31, and I am a co-sponsor of the bill.
Unfortunately, majority party leaders refused to hear any Republican budget bills. To add to the chaotic scene in Springfield’s State Capitol on the final night of the 2016 spring session, Senate Democrats refused to pass the $7.5 billion out-of-balance “budget” approved by the House Democrats the week before. Entities that have been left waiting for more than 11 months for payment from the State still have no assurances that a budget will be in place for the start of the next fiscal year on July 1. Illinois’ public schools were also left unfunded as Democrats left town, pointing fingers at each other.
A series of special sessions are expected to be held in June for lawmakers to make additional attempts to reach a balanced budget. Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger has warned lawmakers that some state payments will end, and others will be delayed as long as eight or nine months, unless a budget deal that matches expenditures to revenues is reached prior to the start of the new fiscal year.
House Republicans File Legislation to Protect Public Education from Budget Fight
One year ago, lawmakers agreed in May 2015 to suspend the impact of the budget impasses upon Illinois public schools and their pupils. This was done by passing a bill that appropriated full funding for Illinois public schools in the 2015-16 school year while leaving the rest of Illinois state government to try to operate without a budget. While flawed, this strategy protected schoolchildren, their parents, and educators from the worst consequences of the current budget impasse for one year. However, the 2015-16 school year is over and a new fiscal year will soon begin.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, with the support of many members of the House Republican Caucus, has responded to the current impasse by filing a separate bill to fully fund K-12 education in Illinois for FY2017. I am also a co-sponsor of this bill. This strategy follows the one adopted in 2015. HB 6583 responds to discussions among many House members from both parties who have called for leaving schools out of the current budget crisis. The measure responds to changes in school attendance, school district equalized assessed values (EAVs), and school district maintenance of efforts. HB 6583 includes a $104.8 million “hold harmless” provision to ensure that all Illinois public school districts will receive at least 100% of their gross prorated 2015-16 General State Aid school aid in FY17.
The bill parallels the bill voted for by most House Democrats in May 2015. It remains to be seen if they will hold Illinois school children hostage this year as they push for even more spending for Chicago. Enacting HB 6583 will mean that Illinois schoolchildren and their families can look forward with certainty to a school year starting in September. I sincerely hope Speaker Madigan releases this bill from the House Rules committee and allows it to be debated and voted upon.
Morrison Joins Republican Lawmakers to Ask Mautino to Step Down as Investigation Continues
On Thursday I joined a group of Illinois lawmakers who urged Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino to voluntarily take an unpaid leave of absence while numerous investigations persist into irregular campaign expenditures and reporting procedures dating back to his time in the Illinois House of Representatives. At a press conference held at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago, we stressed that Mautino cannot effectively do his job while under a lingering cloud of suspicion.
A group of twelve legislators from the House sent an initial request for answers to Auditor General Mautino on February 1st asking for a written reply within 10 days. Mautino replied on February 9th that he needed more time to properly address the request. To accommodate the Auditor General, the lawmakers on February 11th extended their request deadline to February 25th. Mautino replied that he had retained a legal firm to assist him and would be working ‘…during the next few weeks in order to respond to your letter.’ In May lawmakers sent another request to which the Auditor General responded that the issue would be resolved by the State Board of Elections. Since that time, however, it has been revealed that the matter has grown into a federal investigation.
Special Guests Join Morrison as Legislative Pages on Memorial Day
As part of our normal session calendar, legislators are in Springfield working on Memorial Day. This year I was joined on the House Floor by my Springfield assistant’s three adorable and very patriotic daughters. I share this assistant with Representative Batinick, who is also shown in the photo. While I miss spending this holiday with my family, it was a treat to spend some time with these three bright young ladies. As our session day began on Monday, May 30, we took time to honor our fallen heroes and express our thanks for their sacrifice.
Cash-Flow Report by General Assembly Oversight Committee shows Continued Shortfall in Revenues
The shortfall, which has grown significantly since January 2015, is a reflection of what is called the “structural deficit” of the State’s operating budget. This structural deficit is a component of the overall cash flow of the state of Illinois and its treasury, which is independently tracked by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA). COGFA, a nonpartisan arm of the Illinois General Assembly, works with Governor Rauner’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) and the Illinois Department of Revenue to track Illinois cash inflows and outflows.
Even in times of comparative nationwide economic prosperity, Illinois does not collect sufficient taxes from its private-sector economic activity to meet the demands and commitments of its public sector. This shortfall shows up on the State’s books both in relation to actual cash outflow and in relation to the same flows of money in previous years. For example, COGFA’s cash-flow report for May 2016 shows that overall base revenues dropped $266 million in the most-recently-concluded thirty-day calendar period in relation to May 2015. Repeated shortfalls of this type have built up the current backlog of unpaid State debts and bills, which Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger estimated to be $6.9 billion as of Tuesday, June 1. In addition to this $6.9 billion official figure, additional debts represent bills not yet presented to the Comptroller’s office for payment, as well as commitments made by Springfield according to the provisions of statutory law but not yet formally billed to the State.
Chicago Demands Various Forms of Pension Relief
SB 777 rewrites and slows down the schedule that the City of Chicago must use to solve the problem of unfunded pension liabilities borne by Chicago police and firefighter pension funds. HB 813 demanded that state taxpayers contribute $205.4 million to Chicago teacher pensions. Both measures were sponsored entirely by Democrats. SB 777 was seen by opponents of the measure as a facet of Illinois’ longstanding policy of putting off pension payments, commonly referred to as a “pension holiday. This policy has helped lead to a point where Illinois has the lowest credit rating of any of the 50 states. Governor Bruce Rauner issued a total veto SB 777, but the veto was overridden by the House on Monday, May 30. I voted against the veto override of SB 777. The motion to override the Governor’s veto was 72-43-2 (71 votes were required). HB 813 and other Chicago teacher-pension bailout bills did not become law.
House Passes Unfunded Child Care Bill
SB 730 requires the State of Illinois, starting in FY18, to pay child-care subsidies for the care expenses of children with family incomes between 185% and 250% of the federal poverty level (FPL). Previously, families with incomes above 185% of FPL were not eligible for state-funded child care assistance under the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). The proposal was pushed by a SEIU, a union that has mounted a major effort to organize public-sector-paid child care workers. House Republicans pointed out that the measure would have a massive negative fiscal impact upon Illinois taxpayers at a time when the State’s budget is already billions of dollars out of balance. In FY17, the bill would impose an additional $200 million/year burden upon the State’s budget. In FY18 and following years, this fiscal impact would rise by an additional $500 million/year, to $700 million/year. I voted against the bill.
Bill to Automatically Register Voters Sent to Governor
SB 250 designates certain enumerated State agencies, headed by the Secretary of State’s office, and directs them to use their contacts with Illinois residents to automatically register adult residents upon contact. Under this law an applicant for a drivers’ license or license renewal, who as part of the application process presents evidence that he or she is older than 18, would be automatically registered to vote. The new voter’s name would be automatically sent to the State Board of Elections unless the applicant specifically asked not to be registered. The House vote to pass SB 250, as amended, was 86-30-0. The Senate concurrence vote of 50-7-0 sent the measure to the Governor’s desk. Both votes were taken on Tuesday, May 31. Because I believe the bill opens our voting system up to new levels of fraud, I voted against the measure.
Lawmakers will be in “continuous session” throughout the summer as we continue to work toward a budget solution, but when we are not in Springfield I will be back home working from my Palatine office. If my staff or I may assist you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact us. You may reach my Palatine District office at (847) 202-6584 or you can email me by going to www.repmorrison54.com and clicking on the “Contact” button.