Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
An observer in the House chamber last week might have thought April Fools’ Day had come early. One of the sponsors of a resolution to pay non-discretionary bills had a monkey on his back while several Chicago legislators spoke about raising more taxes to avoid budget cuts.
The toy monkey was a symbolic way of saying Illinois must get the monkey off our backs and start paying the backlog of unpaid bills. The idea of raising taxes further so the state can avoid making program reductions and budget choices is indeed foolish to most citizens.
It’s no joke that the Illinois House has passed the budget framework that reduces spending, pays some of the unpaid bill backlog and puts Illinois’ finances on the path to recovery. With the passage of House Resolution 706 and House Joint Resolution 69, spending caps for the state’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget were set at $32.9 billion – less than what was spent last year and $800 million less than anticipated revenue.
Now that a bipartisan budget solution has been reached for a second year in a row, House Appropriations Committees will begin the process of going through agency and program budgets line by line to cut approximately 5.4 percent from last year’s budgeted spending.
The House resolution uses $800 million of revenue to capture some federal Medicaid matching dollars and pay $1.3 billion of the state’s $8.5 billion in unpaid bills. The budget resolution also pays all of the non-discretionary items like group insurance, debt repayment, pensions and revenue sharing with local units of government.
The budget framework is the result of ideas from Republicans who insisted that old bills must be paid, the most vulnerable citizens protected and we must stop borrowing to continue government spending as usual. It appears that the state will finally start living within its available revenue.
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