Push for education funding continues; state faces another credit downgrade

House Republicans continue to push for 2016-17 school funding
The House Republican Caucus has been working with all sides, including Governor Rauner and rank-and-file Democrats, to ensure that funding is in place for Illinois public school districts to open on time this fall.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin filed legislation prior to the May 31st session deadline to provide funding for Illinois elementary and secondary education in this coming school year. House Republicans see this measure as taking K-12 schools out of the budget crossfire. The bill would take effect immediately, but its key impact would be felt in the 2016-17 school year. While the General Assembly could consider the bill at any time, most observers believe that it will become increasingly essential to pass some sort of school funding bill prior to the next calendar deadline – the start of the FY17 fiscal year on July 1.

The Speaker of the House, who sets the session schedule for the House, cancelled this week’s scheduled session day, so it will be at least another week before we have a chance to even get a hearing on this proposal.

Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s cut Illinois credit rating one notch
The Moody’s Investors Service ratings cut, from Baa3 to Baa2, together with the Standard & Poor’s ratings downgrade  to BBB-plus, brings Illinois one notch closer to “junk bond” status. As our credit rating declines, taxpayers must pay higher interest rates. In addition, the state faces the prospect of harsh penalties should credit ratings further decline, with borrowing covenant clauses in effect in which the state promised to lenders that it would maintain the value of its debt at investment-grade levels.

Moody’s accompanied the ratings cut with a reaffirmation of its longstanding “negative outlook” statement on Illinois general-obligation debt, signaling the firm’s belief that further ratings cuts may be imposed in the relatively near future.  Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s are the world’s #1 and #2 providers of credit ratings to public and private entities.  A third firm that competes with and operates in close affiliation, Fitch Ratings, may also soon cut its ratings of Illinois debts.

The credit ratings posted by Moody’s and its competitors are meant to gauge the probability that a piece of debt paper will go into default.  This is just the latest of many reasons why legislators need to work together to end this budget stalemate and get our state moving again.

Free Senior Fair in Pontiac on Tuesday June 28
I am hosting a free senior fair on June 28 in Pontiac. The event is at the Pontiac Recreation Center, 900 N. Elm Street, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Those who stop by can receive helpful guides, literature and other resources from state, county and local government. My staff and I will be available to assist constituents with their state legislative concerns. Attendees can also sign in for a chance to win a door prize and can help themselves to free refreshments. If you are in the area, I hope you will stop by.

What does the Comptroller do?
Created by the 1970 Constitution, the Illinois Comptroller serves as the state official in charge of monitoring the state’s financial books and issuing state payments. With the state currently operating on court orders and consent decrees instead of an actual state budget, the Comptroller has had to prioritize payments based on how much money is available in the state’s bank account from one day to the next. As part of her duties, the Comptroller has also consistently warned elected officials and citizens about the growing unpaid bills backlog, which is now almost $7.5 billion.

The current Illinois Comptroller is Leslie Geissler Munger, who was appointed to the post in January 2015 after the death of Judy Baar Topinka. She is the ninth person to hold the office since it formally came into being in 1973. The Comptroller’s website includes The Ledger, a searchable index of Illinois’ financial records and reports. She also has reports on local government finances, and offers financial workshops for local governments, small businesses and organizations.

Staying safe in the heat
This summer has gotten off to a very hot start, with temperatures hitting the mid-90s already. The National Weather Service has put together some information on how you and your family can stay safe in the heat this summer. Hundreds of Americans are killed by heat-related conditions ever year, and many more are sickened. Visit weather.gov for more information on keeping safe during the hot summer months.

Did You Know?
Charles Bogardus, a Republican from Ford County, and William C. Harris, a Republican from Livingston County, were the only two Illinois Senate Presidents to come from the current 106th district. Sen. Bogardus served as Senate President during the 39th General Assembly (1895-97), and Sen. Harris held the office during the 78th General Assembly (1973-75).