Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
February 11, 2013
In this issue:
· Supplemental Budget Mushrooms
· Address Reflected a State of Mind
· Economic Recovery Continues to Lag
· Committee Hears Testimony on FY14 Revenue
· Governments Levy Hefty Taxes on Cell Phone Consumers
· Fund Sweeps Cause Medical Crisis
· Join me for coffee
Supplemental Budget Mushrooms
Anytime a supplemental budget is rushed through the legislature you can assume either the sponsor wants to prevent amendments for more spending or fears hidden spending will be revealed. Since what started out as a modest spending proposal in the millions of dollars had grown to $2.1 billion by the time of the vote last week, it’s obvious that the sponsor was not limiting spending growth.
I had been involved in negotiations about the supplemental budget into the weekend before the vote. Appropriation chairs from both parties had lots of questions about the amount of available revenue, the moving target over what spending authority was in and what was out of the bill, and the lack of spending details. Nevertheless, the Speaker drafted a bill over the weekend, ran it through committee quickly and then allowed several amendments which changed the bill just hours before the vote. The Senate also quickly passed the bill and the Governor signed the bill into law within hours.
HB190 was designed to fill some funding holes in the budget, and some of the bill’s allocations had merit. The legislation included $25 million to hire 140 more child abuse investigators for the Department of Children and Family Services, $12 million for mental health grants unintentionally cut in the budget last spring, $25 million for rental housing assistance, and $5 million toward a veterans’ home to be built in Chicago.
An additional $550 million was added for the state employee group health insurance program which was intentionally underfunded in the budget. Another big piece of the appropriation went for accelerating road projects on the five-year plan, using additional revenue, and reassigning projects.
The supplemental budget was woven with items that were not essential and seemed to be special member projects. The East St. Louis school district received $9 million so it could make payroll through the end of the year but the mismanaged district needs to be totally reorganized.
The vote on the issue sadly indicated that legislators were more interested in spending than on fiscal restraint and reforms.
Address Reflected a State of Mind
On the eve of the 2014 campaign for Governor I can empathize with Governor Quinn for wanting to paint a rosy picture in his annual State of the State address last week. However, his view of conditions in Illinois and the reality most people see was like a “Tale of Two States.”
For the sake of our citizens looking for bold leadership, I was hoping to hear a speech that focused on growing the Illinois economy, protecting the hard-working taxpayers and preserving services for our state’s most vulnerable citizens. He mentioned many initiatives the legislature has passed to improve education for our children, reduce the growth in Medicaid costs and increase opportunities for veterans so I wondered why his administration has been slow to implement them.
Everyone knows the state is broke, faces mountains of debt and is bleeding jobs so you’d think the Governor would have drawn from the ideas of President Franklin Roosevelt or Prime Minister Winston Churchill who united their nations in the depths of despair. The Governor had an opportunity to pull our state together, ask for common sacrifice, focus on a few strategies to recover and ignite hope for a better future.
Instead, the plan he outlined continued the drive off the fiscal cliff, recycled dead-end ideas, and further pushed jobs out of the state. His desire to increase the minimum wage came completely out of “left field.” Illinois’ current minimum wage is already significantly higher than the minimum wage in surrounding states and also higher than the minimum wage in California, New York, Florida and Michigan.
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