Governor’s Budget Address; a bill for state employee pay

Governor delivers Budget Address
Governor Rauner went before a joint session of the legislature on Wednesday to deliver his annual budget address. He touched on a number of issues, but emphasized the overall theme that we need to find the political will to bring people together and finally work our way out of this crisis.

In his half-hour long speech, the Governor talked about creating jobs, as well as the problems facing Illinois: such as too many people moving out, unbalanced budgets, high property taxes, underfunded pensions, and health care. The Governor spoke of the importance of creating conditions where businesses want to come to Illinois or expand here and create jobs. A big part of that is having stability and a balanced budget. He talked about the importance of compromise: working across the aisle to find solutions.

The Governor expressed his hopes for a successful outcome to the negotiations now underway in the Illinois Senate to bring about a balanced budget with real reforms. He stressed, however, that any deal needs to benefit the taxpayer, or else we will find ourselves right back in the same situation we are in right now.

I was glad to hear the Governor discuss more funding for K-12 education and MAP grants for college students, as well as greater support for programs to fight opiate abuse and for criminal justice reform. These are all things we can do, if we can just find the political will to make good things happen for the people of Illinois. We need to get to that point very, very soon.

Legislation to keep paying state employees
On Thursday, a St. Clair County judge rejected the Attorney General’s motion to have state employee paychecks suspended until a budget is in place. However, we have an opportunity to enact legislation that would prevent state employee pay from this kind of threat in the future. I am co-sponsoring House Bill 2803 along with about 20 other members. The bill protects state worker paychecks from being suspended due to a budget stalemate. This legislation provides a continuing appropriation to meet payroll, whether or not a full budget is in place. Unlike a different proposal, which would only be good through June 30, this would be a permanent law; meaning that future budget deadlocks would not threaten state employee pay.

Our bill has been referred to the House Rules Committee.

3,826 House Bills filed before the deadline
February 10 was the deadline for filing new legislation in the Illinois House. As of the deadline, 3,826 bills had been filed. After the filing deadline, the 56 substantive House committees will review these proposals and decide which of them will move on to the full House for consideration by the entire body.

Some bills will be amended in committee as negotiations about them continue. The committees have six weeks to consider all the bills that are put before them. The deadline for House committee action is March 31. Any bill which does not make it through its assigned committee by then is considered dead for the remainder of the session.

Illinoisans may soon see advertising in vehicle registration reminders
Owners of motor vehicles in Illinois must renew their registration every year. For many years, the Secretary of State has mailed out notices to vehicle owners to remind them to complete the form and mail in their payments. These notices cost around $450,000 in postage costs each year. The reminders were suspended in October 2015 due to Illinois’ lack of a budget. The suspension raised concerns among motorists who missed the reminder notices and did not renew their license plate stickers in time.

The Secretary of State renewed mailing the reminders in 2016 under the six-month stopgap budget, which has since expired. Seeking to avoid another suspension of these notices, the Secretary of State has offered a new proposal: a registration renewal reminder program funded by advertisers.  The state mails renewal notices to 9.6 million vehicle owners each year. The proposal; still under consideration; would allow certain advertisers to buy space on the notices to be mailed to these Illinois drivers.

Illinois imposes tougher retesting requirements on older drivers than other states
Illinois has some of the toughest testing requirements for elderly drivers than any state in the nation. Illinois law requires all drivers over the age of 75 to renew their licenses every four years. They are also required to pass a road test each time they renew. Once a person is over 80, the interval is reduced to 2 years, and then is further reduced to 1 year for drivers over age 87.

In recent years, concerns have been raised about whether this law, which is unique to Illinois, is appropriate. Earlier this month, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) published a report which finds that the Illinois law is reducing the risk of motor vehicle crashes, which makes our highways safer for all who use them.

The IIHS report, which is drawn from comprehensive data from throughout the state, provides data to firms in the motor vehicle insurance industry. These firms can then use this information when they decide whether to maintain or increase their market presence in Illinois and issue policies to Illinois owners of motor vehicles.

Did You Know?
Governor Richard J. Oglesby was elected to three non-consecutive terms as Illinois’ Chief Executive. Governor Oglesby first took office in 1865, after serving in the Union Army during the Civil War. After his term he went back to his law practice. He then ran and won again, taking office for a few months in 1873, before being elected to the U.S. Senate. In 1885, Oglesby returned to the Governor’s office for a third time, again serving just one term before retiring for good in 1889.