State budget more than $6 billion out of balance
The House voted Saturday evening to pass an unbalanced $42.9 billion budget. Presented to us late in the afternoon, the budget bill is 658 pages long and is $6 billion out of balance. In spite of a dramatic decline in revenue due to the pandemic and the shutdown, it actually increases spending by $2 billion compared to last year. It relies on the hope of obtaining a bailout from the federal government that may or may not come, and if it comes, may or may not be enough to fill the gap. Along with all this, it delegates too much spending authority to the Governor and gives legislators another pay raise.
Needless to say, I voted No.
These are difficult times, among the most challenging many of the members of the House have ever faced since taking office. Difficult times call for difficult decisions. Each of us was sent to Springfield by the people of our districts to make these decisions as part of a Constitutional lawmaking process. We were sent to Springfield to represent our districts and to work with each other to create legislation that will have a positive impact on the people of Illinois. That is our focus and that is our job. We were not sent to Springfield to put off tough choices or to defer to the Executive branch through government by executive order.
Dodging these decisions or crossing our fingers and hoping for a bailout from Uncle Sam is not the same as making a tough decision.
Some additional legislation passes on final day
With the abbreviated session we did not have the usual crush of hundreds of bills in the final days, but there was still a flurry of activity on Saturday. The House passed a bill to continue the expanded access to telehealth services which have helped Illinoisans access health care without having to take the risk of visiting a hospital or a doctors’ office. We passed legislation which would move forward with the proposed Danville casino and provide much needed funds for facility maintenance and capital projects in our district. The House also passed a bill to better protect survivors of sexual assault during the pandemic when their access to emergency rooms may be limited.
No action taken on many important priorities
Even though we are coping with a pandemic, the underlying problems which state government faces still remain. We could have taken this opportunity to try to address some of them, but the House was adjourned before that could happen. We did not take any action on ethics reform, which should have been one of the biggest issues of the session. Nor did we address our growing pension debt.
A bill I co-sponsored to stop a legislative pay raise (and cancel last year’s raise as well) was not called for a vote. The House failed to act on property tax reform, term limits or re-districting reform. There was no action taken on reducing the fees for license plate renewals and trailer registrations. We did not get a vote on our resolution to remove the proposed graduated income tax Constitutional amendment from the ballot, nor was there a vote on the Restore Illinois re-opening plan. We had a series of missed opportunities and disappointments.
Look for more details next week
This is just a quick recap of the action taken on this final day of the special session of the legislature. I will have more details for you next week.