Senate Week in Review

July 30, 2015
[Sen. Kyle McCarter]
A complete and constitutional budget remains elusive more than two weeks beyond the start of the state’s new budget year on July 1.
Senator Refuses Pay
Until legislative leaders and the Governor reach agreement on a balance budget, I refuse to accept my legislative salary. The economic and governmental reforms needed to move Illinois forward and create opportunity for every citizen are too important to the future of our state not to hold out for a balanced budget.
Unfortunately, efforts during the week by the Democrat-controlled Senate further complicated the negotiations toward finding a budget solution. The majority approved both a one-month budget plan and then separately overrode five of the Governor’s vetoes of the unbalanced and unconstitutional budget they passed in May. Neither option is acceptable.
The One-month Budget Failure
The one-month budget is a failure for two reasons. First, it’s only for one month. The Legislature is required to pass a 12-month budget to meet its constitutional responsibilities. The second reason is that the one-month plan is simply one-twelfth of the bad deal the majority party approved in May. If budget spending isn’t balanced with budget revenue, it’s unacceptable whether it’s a one-month or 12-month plan.
Bogus Budget
The Senate Democrats also took action to override five of the 20 budget vetoes issued by the Governor last month. The majority admittedly passed a bogus budget in May. They publically acknowledged their plan would spend $4 billion ($4,000,000,000) more than the state expects to receive in tax revenue during Fiscal Year 2016. Gov. Rauner issued the vetoes to keep his promise about addressing Illinois’ historic fiscal crisis brought on by years of overspending.
“Turnaround” Illinois and End Budget Crisis
Getting Illinois’ fiscal house in order goes hand-in-hand with making government more efficient and revitalizing the state’s economy. This is why I support Gov. Rauner’s “Turnaround” agenda. It’s basic, common-sense reforms.
Those reforms include: a property tax freeze; allowing local government to better manage taxpayer dollars by removing and reducing costly regulations that keep property taxes high; eliminating costly business regulations that make it harder for employers to hire new workers and expand their businesses; and passing good government reforms that return control back to the people, such as taking politicians out of the process of drawing their own legislative districts and term limits.
As I stated last week, Republicans and Democrats must continue to work towards a new, responsible state budget and we must pass meaningful government reforms to “Turnaround” Illinois. These two areas are directly linked; not only because one impacts the other, but also because Illinois citizens will pay the price or reap the benefits of the outcome of our efforts.
It’s also worth repeating from last week’s report that many essential services will continue despite the lack of a real budget:
·         Schools will start on time.
·         Illinois State Police will remain on duty.
·         Prisons will remain open—with prison guards on duty.
·         Illinois’ Emergency Management (disaster response) personnel will keep working.
·         A wide range of health and human services mandated by the federal government and federal courts will continue to operate.
·         Funding transfers to local governments will continue automatically.
·         If you are waiting for a refund from the Department of Revenue, that refund is still coming.
·         Retired state employee pensions and benefits will be paid, current State employee benefits will remain in place and salaries will eventually be paid when the budget is signed.
·         The State will pay its debt obligations.
New Report on Illinois Food Stamp Aid
In this column I have regularly reported on the economic realities facing Illinois, which present clear evidence that we need a turnaround. Illinois’ economy continues to struggle from the 2008 recession, the unemployment rate remains above the national average and workforce participation is at all-time lows while job creation here lags behind many of our neighboring states.
Additional evidence to make the case for a turnaround was revealed during the week by the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI). The public policy think tank reported Illinois now has a greater percentage of its citizens on the federal food stamp program known as SNAP than any other Midwest state.According to IPI, nearly 16 percent of Illinois residents are getting aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
A summer legislative session is not a desirable way to handle state business, but the citizens of Illinois deserve a responsible and balanced state budget, something has been lacking during the past 12 years. I am still hopeful for a responsible resolution to the current budget impasse.
Notable Quotable
“People try to live within their income so they can afford to pay taxes to a government that can’t live within its income.” — Robert Half, American businessman, Founder of a now world-wide human resource consulting firm, which bears his name.