Senate Week in Review: Face the Facts. Then Act.

May 9, 2018
As the spring legislative session begins to wind down at the Capitol, we are seeing a repeat of the same tired and failed pattern of decision-making that brought about the state’s current fiscal crisis. A crisis that puts Illinois taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars of debt. Springfield needs a serious citizen intervention.
Bad Bills = Weak Illinois
Two pieces of legislation passed by the Senate during the week are prime examples of fiscal failure.
Senate Bill 3115 would increase the amount of state grants for recipients in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The estimated taxpayer cost of this bill is over $141 million during the next three years. Under former Governor Rod Blagojevich, eligibility guidelines were broadened – drastically increasing costs for public aid programs – and locking Illinois government into spending that contributed mightily to our current fiscal crisis. This legislation continues that unaffordable policy.
Senate Bill 3511 would gradually increase the amount of wages the state pays to caregivers under the Community Care program from the current $18.29/hour to $24.69/hour within three years. The fiscal impact of this legislation would add more than $819 million to state spending.
As much as we want to be caring, loving and giving, state government must learn to live within its means just like the families and businesses, from whom we take the tax dollars.
Spending Beyond Our Means
These two legislative measures alone would add nearly a billion dollars in new spending to the budget over the next three years. That would require an increase in taxes to pay for the nearly one billion dollars in new spending. Are you willing to pay higher taxes? I am not. Continually adding dollars to the budget spending column will not turn Illinois’ finances around. With the current state budget more than two billion dollars in the red, the fact Illinois owes more than $7 billion in overdue bills, and a public pension debt that tops $130 billion, Illinois is already spending money it doesn’t have. And, that’s amazing when you know after last year’s Democrat tax hike, the state is collecting more money than ever from taxpayers.
As I have said many times in the past, the more money Springfield gets, the more money they spend and the more money they demand from taxpayers. Let me repeat my warnings from two recent reports: there are still pending proposals to increase income taxes AGAIN. And your legislators are already spending that money.
Jobs Under Attack
In addition to undisciplined spending, poor decision making also involves the passing of burdensome regulations on the economy and job creation, something else we have seen time and time again. Because of these regulations, along with excessive regulatory fees and the climate of lawsuit abuse that exists in Illinois, the cost for an employer to hire and keep an employee working is much higher in Illinois than in our surrounding states and much of the rest of the country.
Senate Bill 2213 is an example of costly overregulation. Essentially, this legislation would impose new environmental rules on Illinois manufacturers and other businesses to counter the roll back of environmental regulations that is occurring at the federal level, since President Trump took office. It could lead to Illinois employers having to follow environmental rules that are not in place in other states. Once again putting Illinois employers at a competitive disadvantage and jeopardizes Illinois jobs.
The new leadership at the head of the federal EPA is taking a serious look at rules and regulations put in place in prior years because of concerns about their impact on the economy and jobs and allegations of inaccurate or incomplete science as the basis for enacting the guidelines.
The motivation behind SB2213 also seems to be more about politics than a real concern about environmental safety at the workplace. Curiously, much of the regulation in the measure “sunsets” or expires in three years, which just happens to coincide with the next Presidential election.
SB2213 was given a hearing in the Senate Labor Committee and debated in the Senate. Fortunately, the legislation failed in the initial attempt at Senate passage. However, the bill can be brought back for another vote before the end of the spring session.
Illinois is Losing Out
Meanwhile, there’s a new report about the loss of jobs in Illinois. According to the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI), Illinois lost 2,100 jobs over the month of March.” IPI’s analysis further states, “Illinois’ unemployment rate continued to drop in March, and the number of unemployed individuals was at its lowest point in over a decade. This seems like good news, but it’s not. The drop in the unemployment rate and the decrease in the number of unemployed individuals in March was wholly a result of labor force decline…Since the end of the recession in 2010, Illinois’ labor force has declined by more than 137,000 people, a 2 percent slide.”
The Institute based their report on data from the Illinois Department of Employment Security and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A declining labor force is an indication of declining opportunity.
Additionally, another recent report on the 50 states and their friendliness toward business ranks Illinois in 48th place, right at the bottom. The Rich States, Poor States report by the American Legislative Exchange Council ranked the states on the basis of regulation, taxes and labor policies.
Here’s how our neighboring states ranked:
Indiana           3rd
Iowa                29th
Missouri         23rd
Kentucky        31st
Wisconsin      19th
There is plenty of evidence telling us fiscal instability and unaffordable government doesn’t work. We have years of bad results that should be the motivation for change. Adding billions of dollars of debt onto the backs of future generations is immoral. Raising taxes before lowering spending disrespects hard-working Illinoisans who are paying more of their income to state government than ever before. Illinois needs serious political, government and business reforms. It will require political courage. If it doesn’t exist in Springfield, maybe state government needs a serious citizen-intervention at the next election.
Notable Quotable
“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”  Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, 1861 until his assassination in April of 1865; U.S. Representative; Illinois State Representative.