This week was a busy one in Springfield as Illinois continues on without a balanced budget in place for the seventh week of the new fiscal year. I am working hard to preserve and protect social service programs important to seniors, children, the disabled, and working families as we progress through this turbulent process.
This has been a frustrating summer. With a budget nearly vetoed in its entirety, there are those of us on both sides of the aisle who fully recognize that before a discussion of new revenues can begin, Illinois needs reform. Unfortunately, the Chicago Democrats that control the legislature can’t seem to admit that something needs to change to keep jobs here in Illinois. We can’t afford another massive tax increase, just as we can’t afford to keep losing jobs.
I understand that this all must be balanced with a recognition that a good portion of our residents are supported and employed by the State of Illinois. The rights of our workers must be protected, and we need to weigh that equally with the important goal of ensuring those jobs aren’t lost to a crumbling economy. As a longtime employee of the Illinois Department of Corrections, these equally important goals are not lost on me.
These things aside, there are issues that the majority of us can all agree on. Worker’s compensation cost Illinois over 500 jobs in Bedford Park this week alone to Indiana.
Legislative maps have only entrenched these same Chicago politicians who are blocking any move towards reforms. Term limits are another avenue towards diminishing their control. And while many differ around the state on the path forward with state workers and pensions, there are reasonable changes being requested by Governor Rauner to put Illinois on a fiscally sound path.
The goal would be to grow Illinois’ economy and to reestablish credibility with those who have the ability to grow Illinois economy; the manufacturers, businesses and small shop owners who need to know they can expand and hire more people without the constant threat of higher taxes and burdensome regulations. We need the manufacturing jobs that simply will not come here because of taxes. We need to restore the jobs in the coal industry that we are losing because of the burdensome regulations from the state and federal governments.
Because of the budget standoff, Illinois continues to delay these decisions and in the process expose the most vulnerable citizens to complete uncertainty. Yet despite this uncertainty, much of State government continues to function. A very good portion of state funds, due to court rulings, continuing appropriations and consent decrees, continues to be spent. And just this week, we took bipartisan action moving to expend nearly $5 billion in federal-only money that has specifically been sent to Illinois for programs but remained unspent due to the impasse over state funds.
This action is a great step forward toward protecting student assistance, child services and health care services for many Illinoisans as the fight over state dollars continues. The bill, SB 2042, included money for meals on wheels, disaster preparedness, childcare assistance, and money for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This legislation was initially subjected to an amendment that, while admirable, could have killed the whole deal due to overwhelming opposition to the fact it added state spending currently being debated in the ongoing negotiations.
Given this move would have held up the entire bill, I’m pleased to report that common sense prevailed and the legislation was allowed to move forward with only minor additions for homeland security. I am hopeful that this is a sign that more House and Senate Democrats will commit to working across the aisle to craft a responsible, balanced approach to state spending much as was the case here. It is the only path towards crafting a final compromise that can finally put Illinois back on track.
As always, please continue to visit my website at www.repbryant.com for more information on this and other legislative action. Your voice counts and I want to hear from you!
State Representative – 115th District