This week I joined 30 other members of the Illinois House, both Democrats and Republicans, in sending a statement encouraging continued progress on the so-called “Grand Bargain” that is being negotiated in the Senate.
Here is our statement:
“The finances of the state of Illinois are in crisis, and we must do better. The time for resolution is now. We are a bipartisan group of House members committed to seeing that happen. There have been many ideas submitted both inside and outside the Statehouse. The key question for any of them is “do they have the votes to pass?” The Senate offers one set of ideas in the form of a grand bargain negotiated by both Democrats and Republicans in that chamber.
We believe a solution that can pass the House and Senate and be signed by the Governor needs to include a package of bills that fundamentally addresses the needs of the state, and most importantly provides a normal, full-year budget for our state agencies, schools, and social service providers. Let’s be clear; we aren’t looking at a simple all or nothing vote on a package sent from the Senate. We understand that a package sent from the Senate will not be complete or perfect, and it will change.
Our legislative process allows hearings and amendments from both chambers, and we think that’s the best way to negotiate a deal that serves our constituents and the state as a whole. We want to do what we were elected to do; govern the state.
To do that we need to pass a budget. We understand a package from the Senate will be complex. Some parts may make members uncomfortable, and that’s not unusual in a negotiated deal. We ask the Senators from both parties to pass the best negotiated package they can, and then we will take up their work in the House. We publicly support the hard work of the Senate and wish to continue their efforts.” – End of statement.
This week in competing press conferences given by Senate President Cullerton and Minority Leader Radogno, we learned that sticking points to passing a comprehensive package through the Senate to the House include proposed changes to Illinois’ worker’s compensation system and a timeline for a proposed property tax freeze. Other items that are being negotiated include increases in revenues and cuts to state spending.
Illinois’ financial crisis is already here. We’re indebted to our pension systems by more than $130 billion. We’re short revenues for proposed spending plans by anywhere from $5 billion to $7 billion depending on who you ask. The State’s university system is crumbling and under constant stress, having recently experienced devastating credit downgrades. Illinois’ K-12 public education system is facing the prospect of no budget for the upcoming fiscal year if we don’t act. We cannot stand for this anymore.
What’s most troubling to me is that there is a flippant attitude by some Democrats in the House regarding the need to be in Springfield to get our work done. This week, we were originally scheduled to be in Session from Tuesday through Friday. Following two days of little to no action on substantive legislation, on Wednesday afternoon, it was announced that Session for Friday had been canceled. Unbelievably, thunderous cheers could be heard coming from the Democrat side of the aisle at the news.
Illinois has been without a full budget for more than 2 years. The House has taken 3 full weeks of vacations since Session began in January. There are now only 20 calendar days left until the scheduled adjournment on May 31.
Canceling session on Friday is a further indication to me that Democrat leadership in the House is not interested in passing a budget. Considering everything I wrote in the previous paragraphs, I have no other choice but to believe this budget crisis is being used as a political tool for Democrats to use to harm Republicans. Playing these political games when the very future of our state is at stake is a slap in the face to the citizens of Illinois. This madness must end.
Illinois Nurses Association Negotiations Update
I was extremely disappointed and concerned when I learned of the planned layoffs of more than 120 Illinois correctional facility nurses. I was a proud chief co-sponsor of a bill that passed the House that would have rescinded the layoffs of the nurses that work in Illinois’ correctional facilities. As a retired, 20-year veteran of the Illinois Department of Corrections, I understand the difficult environment that these hard-working nurses face every day.
After the bill passed, the administration agreed to rescind the layoffs and have returned to the negotiating table. My understanding is that the administration signaled their willingness to meet in a letter to the INA on April 14. However, this week I learned that the two sides have only met twice since April 14 and are not scheduled to meet again until May 17, despite the Administration’s offer to meet every day.
I simply want to use this space to urge the rank and file nurses to ask their negotiators to return to the table as soon and as often as possible and reciprocate the Governor’s willingness to find a permanent solution to this issue. I believe that good faith negotiations can and will lead to a permanent resolution to this contract dispute.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Tomorrow we will celebrate Mother’s Day. I just wanted to take a moment to say Happy Mother’s Day to my own mom as well as to my daughter Tara, who is the wonderful mother to my four grandchildren. I also want to say Thank You to all the hard-working, constantly-caring, and unconditional-love-providing Moms out there. Thank you! We appreciate you!
My office in Mt. Vernon is open Monday through Friday and my office in Murphysboro is open Monday through Thursday, each from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. You can find me on Facebook to keep up with my travels throughout the district. You can also contact me directly through the Contact Form on my website at www.repbryant.com – Your opinions on important topics facing the State of Illinois are invaluable to me. Keep them coming!