Each year in February the Governor is required to present to a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate a budget address which is traditionally used as the starting point of budget negotiations for the upcoming budget year. With Illinois well into its second year without an agreed budget, Governor Rauner began his speech on Wednesday with a quote from President Abraham Lincoln: “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion… We must think anew and act anew.”
During the 40-minute address, the Governor spoke about the bipartisan work being done in the Senate to create a balanced budget built on compromise, and said he was pleased that for the first time, legislators from both parties are standing together to say that Illinois must have structural change to grow the economy and create good jobs. He also said the ultimate budget proposal must be “a good deal for taxpayers and job creators – a grand bargain that fully balances the budget once and for all, and really moves the needle when it comes to job creation.” I agree with the governor and would add that the overall solution for taxpayers involves reining in the costs that are driving up taxes. We must implement reforms in the areas of pensions, workers compensation and unfunded mandates, as well as adopt policies that promote government consolidation. Relief in all of these areas will lighten the property tax burden and allow our state to thrive.
If you would like to read the speech, a copy is available here. If you would like to view the supporting documents for the speech, you can access the “Budget Book” here.
Following the speech I recorded a video response. You can watch that video here.
Bills Begin to Move through House Committee Process
House members filed a total of 3,921 bills this year prior to the February 10 deadline. Only bills filed by that date may be considered in a House committee during the 2017 spring session. House bills filed after February 10 cannot be considered this spring as independent, free-standing legislation. I filed 19 bills this year as Chief Sponsor, and have signed on as Chief Co-Sponsor or as a co-sponsor of 39 others.
Following the bill introduction deadline, State Representatives spend the next six weeks vetting these bills at the committee level. The House has 57 permanent and special committees that will hear testimony and consider bills. Because no piece of legislation may reach the House Floor for a final vote until it receives a positive vote at the committee level, this time of year we spend most of our time in committee meetings.
Morrison Returns as Republican Spokesperson for Personnel & Pensions Committee
Committee assignments were announced a few weeks ago, and for the 100th General Assembly I will continue in my role as the Republican Spokesperson for the House Personnel & Pensions Committee. Aside from the need for a budget, there is no more pressing issue in our state than our pension system and the drain it has on available revenue. It is my honor to return as the ranking Republican for this critical committee. I will also serve as the Republican Spokesperson for the Elementary & Secondary Education: Charter Schools Committee, and as a member of the Environment, Economic Justice, and Insurance: Health & Life Committees. These are all excellent committee assignments, and I appreciate the opportunity to have a role in shaping public policy in these key areas.
HB 40 Clears House Committee; Now Awaits Full House Vote
In spite of significant opposition by Illinois residents who oppose the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions and Republicans who serve on the House Human Services Committee, HB 40 passed at the committee level on February 8 in a 7-5 vote. The next stop for this damaging bill is the House Floor. I am a vocal opponent of this bill and will speak vehemently against it when it is presented to the members of the House for a final vote.
This is a bill that would require the tax dollars of every Illinoisan, regardless of their stance on the abortion issue, to be used to fund abortions through Medicaid and abortions for State employees, for any reason throughout the entire nine months of a pregnancy. I strongly encourage all who believe taxpayers opposed to abortion on moral and religious grounds should not have to fund abortions to call all Illinois State Representatives to register your opposition to this bill. A list of State Representatives can be found here. Should the bill pass in the House, it will then move to the Senate for consideration. A list of Senators can be found here. Contact information for each Representative and Senator can be obtained by clicking on the names.
In response to this inappropriate use of taxpayer funds, I am supporting HR 145, sponsored by my colleague Representative Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor). This resolution expresses opposition to legislative efforts to use State taxpayer funds to pay for abortions and to pay the insurance costs for State employees to have abortions.