As you are aware by now, Hurricane Irma is a historic storm that’s headed directly toward Florida and other Atlantic coast states. I have many friends and relatives that live in south Florida, and I wanted to use this space to offer my heartfelt prayers for safety for everyone in the path of the storm. With the states of Texas and Louisiana both still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, the United States’ charitable and disaster relief organizations are under severe stress.
If you want to know how you can help the victims of these disasters, please either visit the Red Cross of Central and Southern Illinois by visiting http://www.redcross.org/local/illinois/central-and-southern or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.
State of Illinois Financial Update
This week, big news was made in regard to the State of Illinois’ financial picture. As you know, the 2 years-plus budget impasse resulted in many problematic financial consequences for our state.
Many social service providers experienced deep cuts, or closed down altogether, health care providers are still owed billions of dollars (and some have been waiting more than 2 years for payment), and school districts have suffered because the State’s officials have not had the legal authority (or the money) to be able to make regular distributions of money to keep them properly funded.The delay in payments to our schools even caused some to announce last month that they simply could not continue operating for the entire 2017-18 school year.
The passage of Illinois’ budget in July and the recent signing of the historic education funding reform law (SB 1947) have caused a major change in regard to these problems. Two major announcements this week by the Governor and the Comptroller will help our State begin taking steps to fix two of our most pressing financial problems.
Bill Backlog News
One provision of the FY 18 budget allowed for the issuance of $6 billion in bonds to help consolidate payments and lower interest rates that are racking up as a result of our $15 billion bill backlog. In Illinois, if a certain bill is more than 6 months old, the State is forced to pay the recipient up to 12% interest when the money is finally paid!
There is finally some good news on this subject. This week, Governor Rauner announced that he will issuing bonds to consolidate our debts means that taxpayers will pay less interest over time and our state’s cash-flow situation will improve. Paying the debts we owe to the aforementioned health care providers and social service providers, which are often small businesses, will also mean continued service and/or restoration of some services that might have already been lost.
One of the main reasons Illinois needed a budget in place was that our social service provider network was on the ropes from a financial standpoint. Losing these vital services also means losing the jobs that go with them.
In Southern Illinois, we need to do all we can to keep services and keep jobs for our people. Consolidating our state’s backlog and lowering the interest that YOU as a taxpayer ultimately pay is a good move that will save jobs and save money. I applaud the Governor and thank him for taking this action.
School Funding News
Good news came on Thursday morning, as Comptroller Susana Mendoza announced the release of more than $800 million in funding for Illinois’ K-12 schools. For weeks, I have used this space to urge legislators to come together with the Governor to finally put a fair and equitable funding formula into place.
As you know, last week Governor Rauner signed that bipartisan compromise legislation into law. The release of this funding means schools can in fact stay open all year. The education funding reform law also means that Illinois’ poorest schools and communities will finally receive an adequate level of funding.
For too long, Illinois was the land of the haves and the have-nots when it came to education funding. I am so proud to have supported SB 1947 because it means the unfair system of the past will end. I pledge to work to make sure Illinois KEEPS the promises we have made in the school funding agreement.
Town Hall Meetings Next Week
I am happy to announce that I will be providing a legislative update at two town hall meetings next week. See below for details.
Ava Town Hall Meeting
When: Tuesday, September 12th 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM.
Where: Ava Community Building, S. 3rd Street in Ava
Bluford Town Hall Meeting
When: Thursday, September 14th 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Where: Bluford Elementary School, 901 6th Street in Bluford
If you have any questions or if you need assistance prior to these meetings, please contact my office at (618) 242-8115. I hope to see you there!
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!