Senate Week in Review: June 13 – 17, 2016
The McCarter Budget Part 2: Management
Despite the political differences too often on display at the Capitol, there is general agreement under the Dome that Illinois is in financial crisis. What to do about it is the problem and it’s the basis for the ideological differences that divide and leave Illinois without a state budget. I believe there is hope for a better outcome. I’m offering a budget solution that can put Illinois on the right track and, it’s manageable without raising taxes. It requires leadership and cooperation from Republicans and Democrats.
For all intents and purposes, Fiscal Year 2016 (July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016) is over. Incredibly, Illinois went a year without a complete and constitutional budget in place. It’s the first time in state history. It should be the last time. While our financial challenges are great and political challenges arguably greater, we can solve these dueling dilemmas.
Meeting Our Oath of Office
“…that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office…to the best of my ability.” These are the words of our Oath of Office. They need to be taken to heart. We must set aside politics and regional disagreements to come together to solve the financial crisis that threatens the economic health of our state and the social safety net for our most vulnerable citizens. Illinois government is shared governance. The Legislature is controlled by Democrats, but the Governor – since January of 2015 – is a Republican. Shared governance means exercising leadership and responsibility, in a cooperative way, on behalf of the people of Illinois. The people deserve our best effort and accomplishment. They deserve a legacy of responsible government that will last for generations. As it stands now, if we continue along the status quo of spending, taxing and regulating, we will leave a legacy of crushing debt and taxes that will last for generations.
In Part 1 of my report, I outlined specific government reforms needed to get Illinois back on the path of fiscal recovery. Pension and Workers’ Compensation reform are the foundational changes we need if we are serious about addressing underlying problems and establishing a future of prosperity and opportunity for everyone.
However, a mere one or two year diversion from the practices and policies that led to our financial crisis is not acceptable. Spending, taxing and regulating during previous years brought about a deteriorating business/jobs climate. It increased public debt beyond comprehension and left state government unable to meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens and fund priorities such as education.
New Management Hired
Illinois government got its new management in January of 2015, but so far the CEO is hampered by disgruntled middle managers. The disagreement in political ideology is evident between a governor elected on reform and renewal and entrenched, “business as usual” legislators – one of whom makes a career out of conflict.
Let’s Act Today
My budget proposal details approximately $3.57 billion in savings through spending reductions and government reforms. Savings outlined in my budget plan include:
Financially sound and affordable public pension changes $2.374 billion
(Reforms, cost shifts, mandate relief, higher education procurement rule changes)
Government spending and savings changes
(Workers’ Comp reform, 10% pay cut all state elected officials, reforms to sales tax collections, state employee health care reforms, sale of Thompson Center in Chicago, AFSCME contract)
Protecting education and human services
(No funding reductions, level funding for K-12 education and Early Childhood Education, Higher Education performance-based grants, new guidelines for the Community Care Program for seniors)
My plan also requires Governor Bruce Rauner to put to use his management abilities to reduce another $915 million in spending by state agencies, which he notes in his own budget proposal.
We Can Make It Work
In addition to the savings outlined above, several pieces of critical legislation also need to pass. The budget plan combines ideas from legislators (Republicans and Democrats) and the Governor. We can balance the Fiscal Year 2017 budget (July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017) without a tax increase. The savings outlined are 79% of the current funding gap. The Governor’s executive management savings represent the remaining 21% of the funding gap.
This is an open and honest proposal about what we can and cannot afford. We know by virtue of our current financial crisis that we cannot continue to spend more money than we collect as tax revenue. Budget waste, fraud and abuse squanders taxpayer dollars. We can no longer afford a bureaucracy grown fat on costly rules and regulations. It’s time to expect more of government and less of taxpayers.
“The key question is will we stay on this failed path of the status quo or will we change direction? Can we reform our government, change the root causes of our deficit spending and put ourselves on a path of fiscal responsibility and stronger economic growth? That’s the challenge before us.” – IL. Governor Bruce Rauner, October 7, 2015, Speech to the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau.