Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
March 11, 2013
In this issue:
· Budgeting From Crisis to Crisis
· Quinn Budget Squeezes Education
· Union Contract Good for Workers; Blows State Budget
· MAP Grant Applications Now on Wait List
· Bills Clarify Illinois Residency for Veterans
· Thousands March for Second Amendment Rights
· Talk Begins About Extending the Income Tax Increase
· Exercise Grows Brain Cells
· House Republicans Launch Blog
Budgeting From Crisis to Crisis
The Department of Aging notified home care providers and the legislature that as of Friday they have spent their budget and need a supplemental appropriation of $173 million to fund services through June. Actually, I’m told they could get by with $70 million but then what’s a few million more among friends?
You may remember the administration just received approval for $2.1 billion to finish the fiscal year and never mentioned the need for additional funding in this program. What appears again and again is that the Quinn administration can’t manage the budget approved by the legislature. Instead of allocating the budget over 12 months they spend it in 8 and then ask for emergency supplemental appropriations. This is no unexpected emergency, its poor fiscal management.
The House solved another emergency this week when the administration ran out of money and cut staff who review medical licenses. The state was faced with the crisis of not approving for up to 18 months any new licenses for medical school graduates or renewal of currently practicing physicians. Doctors can’t work without licenses but rather than propose some type of emergency approval process, the administration was content to just say wait—don’t work–for up to a year- and- a-half.
Senate Bill 622 passed the House on Thursday to transfer $6.6 million owed local units of government to the Medical Disciplinary Fund so the licenses can be processed. The bill also raises license fees for physicians from $300 to $700 to repay the local government tax fund.
Quinn Budget Squeezes Education
The governor was given a two- week extension to prepare his annual budget address but his plan will likely receive little consideration from the House. For openers he anticipates more revenue–$500 million more—than the House established just the day before. He proposed expanding Medicaid, holding spending of most items at last year’s levels, while significantly cutting classroom education and school busing.
He took credit for reducing Medicaid appropriations this year but then failed to implement those reductions which will result in more unpaid bills. After talking about Medicaid reductions, he called on the House to expand eligibility for Medicaid next year which will surely drive up costs of the program.
The governor noted that growth in pension payments is causing a reduction in other areas of the budget and that many reform proposals have been made. He failed to outline how he felt the legislature should navigate the mine field of constitutional restrictions that would be fair to employees and retirees, and cut pension expenses.
While the governor talked about preserving funding for early childhood education, scholarships for college students and services for veterans; and proposed more funding for mental health care; he called for significant reductions in classroom education and busing reimbursements. His suggested state funding levels combined with falling property tax receipts have school districts across the state in severe economic panic.
During his speech, Governor Quinn spoke vaguely about growing Illinois’ economy as a way to increase employment and resulting state revenue. I stand ready to help the governor in those efforts. However, in the next breath he proposed raising corporate taxes by nearly half a billion dollars to pay state bills. Governor, you can’t have it both ways; increasing the cost of doing business takes money away from growing the business.
Union Contract Good for Workers; Blows State Budget
Details about the tentative agreement between the Quinn administration and the 40,000 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) are emerging very slowly. It appears that the union has won pay increases in three of four years in exchange for higher healthcare premiums for workers starting next year and requires retirees next year to pay healthcare premiums, many for the first-time.
The union agreement reportedly calls for pay increases this year, a pay freeze next year and two percent increases in each of the next two years. The legislature had not budgeted for the $140 million in pay increases this year and was counting on the revenue from increased healthcare premiums. As a result, the FY2013 budget will suffer about a $500 million cost increase.
MAP Grant Applications Now on Wait List
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