After months of negotiations, the General Assembly advanced a massive Medicaid reform package this week. State Senator Christine Johnson (R-Shabbona) said the biggest win for the citizens of Illinois was the passing of Senate Bill 3397 – the Section 25 Reform that will tear up the Governor’s Medicaid “credit card” by changing the state law that has allowed administrations to buy Medicaid services in one fiscal year, but not pay for those services until the next fiscal year.
The program, which provides health care to 2.7 million Illinois residents in need, will end this current fiscal year (though June 30) with $1.9 billion in unpaid bills, according to Governor Quinn’s Office.
“The Illinois Medicaid system is literally on the brink of collapse. Without this fundamental restructuring of the program, the Civic Federation estimated we could have $21 billion in unpaid Medicaid bills by 2017,” said Sen. Johnson.
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On May 3, 2012, the Illinois Senate passed a bill co-sponsored by Senator Christine Johnson (R-Shabbona), to eliminate the scandal-plagued Legislative Scholarship Program that has cost state universities hundreds of millions of dollars in unfunded waivers.
“I am happy that we were able to take this bi-partisan step forward on the road to cleaning up the corruption and misuse of funds in Illinois,” said Johnson who was one of the 45 legislators to vote in favor of House Bill 3810.
“I believe this is a definitive turning point in both caucuses’ fight to improve the ethical and fiscal quality of our state.”
For more than a century, the General Assembly Scholarship Program allowed each legislator to annually award two, four-year scholarships to students of their choice. The guidelines for the awards are extremely vague, with only one solid rule that requires students to be residents of the legislators’ district at the time they enter college.
The legislature does not appropriate funding for the vouchers, leaving the universities to absorb the cost – which was $13.9 million in 2010. Johnson said ending the program will not just save the universities money, but other students as well.
“Our state universities are already under great financial strain, in part because Illinois is so behind on paying its bills. As a result, the cost of the scholarships shifts to other students in the form of higher tuition and fees,” Johnson said.
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After months of dismal news for Illinois, including a downgraded credit rating and report naming Illinois the most corrupt state in the nation, during his budget address on February 22, Governor Pat Quinn announced he will be increasing spending and expanding programs in FY13.
“I was hoping the Governor would take off the rose-colored glasses and accept that Illinois’ economy is dying and offer us specific actions and spending cuts he is pursuing to revive it,” said Sen. Christine Johnson (R-Shabbona).
“Instead, we got a proposed budget that increases spending and expands programs with, par for this administration’s course, little explanation on where the money will come from.”
Although the Governor’s Office had been telling reporters and legislators he was going to reduce spending back to the 2008 level, the budget outlined Feb. 22 actually spends $3.4 billion more than 2008.
The Governor’s numbers show the administration will increase total spending not just from 2008, but from last year as well. The budget presented would spend $550 more than in FY2012 – creating a path that Sen. Johnson says will make it nearly impossible to phase out of the 2011 67 percent income tax and 45 percent corporate tax hikes in three years as promised.
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One year anniversary of Illinois income tax hike has Sen. Johnson looking for more long-term solutions
January 13, 2012
One year ago, the Democrats in the Illinois Legislature pushed through a 67 percent, $7 billion tax hike that will cost every working Illinois family a week’s pay every year.
“Unfortunately, we have little to show for the largest tax hike in Illinois’ history,” said State Senator Christine Johnson (R-Shabbona).
“A year later, our unemployment has gone up and as of November was 16 percent above the national average, business has gone down, and billions of dollars in unpaid bills remain. To sum it up, the tax increase did not work and it is time to repeal it.”
With state finances crumbling, Democrat leaders pushed the 2011 three-year tax hike as a way to pay off old bills and resolve the state’s financial problems. However, Johnson said the legislature continued to spend like the increase was permanent leaving Illinois little room to improve our financial situation.”
Last week Gov. Quinn released budget projections showing that instead of generating a surplus, the Fiscal Year 2012 budget still spends more than state takes in. In fact, according to the Governor, Illinois will still see a $500 million shortfall at the end of this fiscal year—not including $2 billion in deferred obligations according to Sen. Johnson.
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January 9, 2012 – SPRINGFIELD – This week, budget projections released by the Quinn Administration offer a grim preview of the state’s fiscal situation, though State Sen. Christine Johnson (R-Shabbona) said Senate Republicans have a plan to jump start the state into a financial comeback.
While Governor Quinn isn’t scheduled to deliver his formal budget address until February 22, on Jan. 3, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget released preliminary revenue and spending projections for the next three fiscal years.
The dismal results highlight the need to make agreeing on some long-term solutions to finance state government operations a top priority, according to Sen. Johnson.
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“I am satisfied that this long trial against former Governor Rod Blagojevich is over. The court has ruled, justice has been served and this chapter in our state’s history has finally come to a close. As a mother, my heart goes out to the children. As a citizen, this just verdict reassures me that our legal process does work and that no one, no matter how powerful, is above our law in Illinois. As a legislator, I believe it is important now more than ever to take an active and unwavering stance against corruption at all levels. Illinois still has a long way to go in reforming state government so we can prevent this deep-seeded corruption from ever happening again. I will continue to be a part of a new generation of legislators that will push for that reform.”
– Illinois State Senator Christine Johnson, 35th District
State Senator Christine J. Johnson (R-Shabbona) passed her first bill out of the Illinois Senate on Tuesday – and received a good amount of friendly freshmen-legislator ribbing.
While House Bill 2094 merely defines the term “baiting” in regard to the state’s Wildlife Code for hunting wild turkeys and white-tailed deer, which is illegal under current law, the senator’s colleagues took turns asking “hazing” questions of her legislation.
“It was a fun experience and I’m glad my fellow senators could find the humor in the topic of turkey baiting,” Sen. Johnson said.
The General Assembly has an unofficial tradition of members asking new legislators a series of humorous and ridiculous inquiries in regards to their first bill they present on the floor for a vote.
Sen. Johnson received tongue-in-cheek questions concerning her wardrobe choice of wearing a red jacket, whether she would be looking to create new legislation to hunt other animals (and if they should be consequently notified) and even alluded to her predecessor’s policy positions.
In the end, however, the bill passed the Illinois Senate unanimously, 58-0, and Sen. Johnson received congratulations from her colleagues on the floor.
“It’s a relief and I’m happy to have been a part of this good-natured tradition,” Sen. Johnson said. “I look forward to working on other legislative matters and engaging my fellow senators on the floor again.”
Statement from State Senator Christine J. Johnson (R-Shabbona) on the failed passage of Senate Bill 1349, the workers’ compensation reform bill
“I am deeply disappointed the bill failed by five votes when our counterparts across the aisle did not have the political courage to join those of us in the Senate Republican Caucus to vote for meaningful reform that would help businesses in our state grow jobs. It’s only common sense that Illinois’ workers’ compensation system needs dramatic reform to make the state competitive with our surrounding states in the Midwest and the rest of the nation. This bill would also have helped to prevent fraud and abuse. I hope that the statements made by those across the aisle during tonight’s debate to continue negotiations and eventually return to the floor a real reform bill were genuine, and I look forward to working on this important issue.”
State Senator Christine J. Johnson (R-Shabbona) joined her Senate Republican colleagues on Thursday to warn about the state’s worsening fiscal condition that could make the “temporary” income tax hike permanent.
Pointing to the governor’s own budget plan at a Statehouse news conference, Sen. Johnson and the Senate GOP caucus said that in five years Illinois would be left with a $22.6 billion cumulative deficit.
“We have a situation where every year this 67-percent tax hike is in effect, the state will keep running a deficit in the billions of dollars each year,” Sen. Johnson said. “And despite the taxpayers feeling the pinch every year, we still won’t have a balanced budget. Frankly, we’re headed for a disaster and it’s time to take action.”
Sen. Johnson said the problem comes from the built-in “spending caps” of the tax-increase language, which allows the state to increase spending each year – spending that Illinois cannot continue to afford.
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Senator Christine Johnson 35th District IL Senate
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – State Senator Christine J. Johnson (R-Shabbona) joined her Senate Republican colleagues in voicing opposition to the governor’s proposal to borrow nearly $9 billion for the state budget at a Capitol press conference on Tuesday.
Sen. Johnson said the plan, found in Senate Bill 3, would damage the state’s financial footing even further and would cost taxpayers even more money in the long term.
“The governor’s plan doesn’t get us out of a hole or cut spending,” Sen. Johnson said. “Instead, we’ll be burying ourselves in more debt and make it harder to have a responsible budget in the future that will cost taxpayers and businesses even more money. This proposed ‘solution’ is anything but.” Read more →