July 10, 2009
The legislature is called back to Springfield on July 14 to try again to resolve the state’s budget crisis and prevent a shut-down of state government and services. Governor Quinn rejected in whole or part most of the six budget bills sent to him by the legislature in June saying the funding was inadequate for critical human services and did not make enough cuts in spending in other areas.
Most agencies and providers of state services have begun the process of laying off staff and shuttering programs under the assumption that budget reductions were eminent. Also state employees will not receive their July paychecks on time unless the legislature over-rides the Governor’s veto or reaches agreement on a temporary budget.
I regret the interruption of services to clients, the job uncertainty and income loss for employees, and the damage to our support and safety network. Thousands of local residents have been affected by the feuding and failure to reach a budget agreement between the Governor and legislative leaders. I told the Governor when I met with him this week that a resolution must be reached when we return to Springfield and that his planned cuts in vital programs and jobs are unacceptable.
Governor Releases New Budget Proposal
After his veto of the General Assembly’s proposed budget, Governor Quinn released an amended version of his “Tough Choices” budget proposal. Quinn claims that this proposal will greatly improve the state’s financial health, preserve more than 100,000 critical human services jobs, and pay down debt owed to vendors and small business.
Governor Quinn’s revised budget calls for $1 billion in spending cuts, new revenue from a pension obligation note and two-year income tax increase to 4.5 percent. Even with this additional revenue, the unpaid bills next June are estimated to be about $1.5 billion, down from the current $3.3 billion level.
Under Quinn’s proposal, $210 million in spending cuts would come from state operations, employee furloughs and layoffs. Another $140 million would be cut from Medicaid and health insurance. Grants to local providers would be cut by $250 million while education would be cut by $175 million. The Department of Corrections budget would be slashed by $125 million and reserves in all agencies would increase to $100 million.
When the Governor releases his detailed cuts next week, we must make certain that duplication, noncritical expenses and ineffective programs are eliminated. At the same time I will be supporting programs that attract federal dollars; programs that intervene and prevent bigger state costs later; preschool, education, and job training activities; and care for our most vulnerable.
Possible Actions Next Week
While many citizens are hoping that a balanced budget will be passed on July 14 and a long-term resolution found to the state’s revenue needs, many anticipate only a temporary budget will be adopted. Speaker Madigan who controls the agenda agrees that this is not the time to increase the income tax and likely will just allow a vote to over-ride the Governor’s vetoes.
The Senate will likely vote for a third time in an effort to pass a $2.2 billion pension bonding bill which will add enough revenue to operate the state until November. When the legislature returns to Springfield for the Veto Session this fall, it will likely consider supplemental funding and revenue to finish the year.
Governor Quinn agreed with such a scenario this week as the best plan to keep government operating while we work on further cuts and reforms in pensions and Medicaid.
The Governor announced this week that he is ready to sign all the capital bills totaling $29 billion that were passed by the legislature this spring. This economic stimulus is the first capital funding in 10 years which will finally put people back to work, create local economic activity and repair roads, bridges, schools and community infrastructure.
There is also funding that will be awarded through grants to early childhood facilities, parks, libraries and museums, schools and colleges for maintenance, healthcare and environment and natural resources.
I am delighted to see funding in these bills for Stephens and Cole Halls at Northern Illinois University, projects at all four of the local community colleges, and additions at Hinckley-Big Rock Community schools promised in 2002. Senator Burzynski and I were also able to include infrastructure grants for every municipality in the district, the Midwest Museum of Natural History, and Kishwaukee Health System’s Radiation Oncology Center. All the capital projects are identified in HB312 and HB313.
Help Offered for Student Loan Repayment
Individuals who have federal college student loans may now qualify for help in making smaller repayments. The new program applies to Family Education loans including Stafford, Grad Plus and federal consolidation loans. To qualify, a person’s federal loan payments must exceed 15 percent of their discretionary income.
Monthly loan payments under the program will be reduced depending on the level of monthly income. After 25 years in the program, the borrowers’ debts will be completely forgiven.
The program which began on July 1 seeks to help individuals get out from under the debt of attending college. Federal and state support of higher education has declined in recent years placing a higher financial burden upon the student for attending college. For more information, to see if you would benefit, and then to apply, visit the U.S. Department of Education website: www.ed.gov
Illinois Extends Age for Dependent Insurance Coverage
As a reminder, Illinois parents may now keep their unmarried children on their health insurance plans until they reach age 26, or if they are military veterans until age 30.
All individual and group health insurance policies and HMO contracts (including dental and vision) that offer dependent coverage must abide by the new law which took effect June 1. Health policies that do not currently offer dependent coverage are not affected.
Illinois joins 24 other states that are trying to reduce the number of uninsured young adults by extending the time they can remain on their parents’ insurance policies.
Share Your Ideas to Reinvent Illinois
Join in the discussion as the Illinois General Assembly continues to look for efficiencies to reduce state expenses while improving service to citizens. I encourage you to share your ideas and observations with me and on a new state website.
Visit the state website www.reinventillinois.com, register for a free login and begin submitting your ideas. Remember, your input is valuable and when I am aware of your ideas, I can support them in legislation and committee debate.
Circle Your Calendar for the Senior Expo
I invite you to join Senator Brad Burzynski, the Family Service Agency’s Senior Services Center and me for the annual Senior Expo on Thursday, July 30th. The event is free and open to all from 9 a.m. to Noon at the DeKalb County Farm Bureau Center for Agriculture (1350 W. Prairie Drive, Sycamore).
Over 40 state and local agencies will provide information on a variety of topics important for seniors including legal, financial, medical, assisted living, and home health care services.
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