Energy bill stalls; Change to budget bill

House meets on Wednesday, no energy bill

Talks are continuing on an energy bill after it failed to gain enough support to be brought up for a vote earlier this week. The Senate met on Tuesday and the House on Wednesday with the understanding that a deal was in place to enact an energy bill to subsidize Illinois’ nuclear power plants and upgrade the state’s power grid. But the bill was not brought up for a vote in the Senate after a number of objections were raised.

As it stood early this week, the proposal would have been bad for rural downstate communities like many of ours. It included far-reaching eminent domain provision that had the potential to harm our farmers by making it far too easy to seize their land for projects. The proposal also threatened to force large price increases on local residents who get their power from electric cooperatives.

I support clean energy, but this proposal needed more work. I am glad that it is going back to the drawing board so that it can be improved.

And while we are on the topic of clean energy, a bill I am sponsoring to help fight air pollution has now passed both houses. The House on Wednesday agreed to a Senate amendment to House Bill 165, legislation which would set up a carbon capture utilization and storage study by the Prairie Research Institute to review the feasibility of storing carbon emissions deep underground in Illinois where it can be safely absorbed rather than released into the atmosphere.

Budget bill changed at last minute to correct serious oversight

There was a lot wrong with the budget that was passed a few minutes before midnight on May 31. It spends more than we take in, it raises taxes on small businesses and it was a 3000-page bill rammed through in the middle of the night with very little debate.

It was that last part that proved to be a problem this week. Just before signing the budget into law, the Governor’s office discovered a drafting error which would have prevented the state from spending much of the appropriated money before next summer. The Governor had to issue an “amendatory veto” and send the corrected budget back to the General Assembly for another vote.

These are the kinds of mistakes which happen when major legislation is rushed to passage with little transparency or review. It is a good argument for much more openness in our budgeting process.

Speaking up for small businesses

As Illinois moves out of the pandemic shutdowns our small businesses continue to struggle. Those which endured the hardships of the lockdown are now trying to get back on their feet and open full time, but they have been inhibited by difficulty in finding enough workers. Today I spoke out on the House floor to encourage Illinois to join those other states which have offered their small businesses a plan and a timeline for some relief.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $3,666,821,073 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $6.1 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $141 billion.

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