Week in Review for 5/18/15 - 5/22/15

Budget – FY16
Despite deadline, Democrats again refuse to pass balanced budget for FY16. The Illinois Constitution requires that the State annually pass a balanced budget in which revenues match mandated expenditures. One way that Speaker Madigan has been Speaker for 32 of the past 34 years is by passing a series of unbalanced budgets, which have all spent money the State has not had. He has curried favor with powerful interests and forced Republicans to be the villains whenever steps are taken to prevent the spending of imaginary money.

Strong rumors circulated on Friday, May 22 that Democrats were preparing another unbalanced budget for FY16, the fiscal year starting July 1, 2015. This budget may get filed in the week starting Memorial Day, May 25. This phony budget is expected to commit $4 billion that Illinois does not possess to the Democrats’ spending priorities. Governor Bruce Rauner has proposed a different budget for Illinois and has strengthened his calls for the State’s government to live within its means.

General Assembly – Term Limits
Many House Republicans push for term limits. Having only spent four months on the job, the large class of House Republican freshmen came together in the Capitol Wednesday to express their disgust with the partisan political atmosphere that has engulfed Springfield. The message they came to deliver is there is no better time than now to call for term limits in Springfield.

“I don’t believe there’s a single one of us who truly understood the high barriers towards reform that have been erected by the entrenched leadership here in Springfield,” stated Steve Andersson (R, Geneva). “The time is now to discuss this issue, while we are amidst this gridlock.”

An initiative to put a binding term limits referendum on the 2014 General Election ballot was denied by a three-judge Illinois Appellate Court last August, leaving legislative action as the best alternative. With three separate joint constitutional amendments filed, House Republicans point to the onset of gridlock so early into the new Governor’s first term along with the increasingly draconian House rules as evidence that term limits need immediate consideration.

“Status quo is rampant in the state of Illinois. For too long now Illinois has suffered at the hands of entrenched politicians stifling new ideas and solutions,” said Representative Christine Winger (R-Wood Dale). “Let the voters decide whether term limits are a good idea for Illinois.”

House Republicans have three separate constitutional amendments filed aimed at imposing term limits in Illinois: HJRCA1 filed by Rep. Ron Sandack (R, Downers Grove), HJRCA 10 filed by Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R, Rockford) and HJRCA 28 filed by Rep. Steve Andersson (R, Geneva); all seek to put on the ballot limits on legislative terms to varying degrees. It is expected the Governor’s own proposal will be filed soon.

“We all need to work together on solutions that put Illinois back onto a path toward prosperity, and that path must include reforms to how we do business here. One of those key reforms must be the implementation of term limits for members of the General Assembly,” added Representative Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield).

Taxes – Income Tax Hike
Democrats back proposal to raise income taxes by $1 billion/year. HJRCA 26, sponsored by Speaker Michael Madigan and 46 of his Democratic House colleagues, failed to win the required House super-majority vote on Thursday. As a constitutional amendment, the failed measure required a three-fifths majority (71 votes) in order to gain House approval. After getting to 68 votes in a tense roll call (with three Democrats voting “No”), the Speaker ordered the roll call to be dumped and the measure placed on the calendar order of “Consideration Postponed.”

HJRCA 26 would have imposed a separate, supplemental 3% surtax upon Illinois incomes exceeding $1 million/year. The trigger number for this surtax would not have been indexed to inflation. The issue was also voted on in November 2014 by Illinois voters in the HB 3816 advisory referendum.

Governor Rauner and the House Republicans have committed to cutting waste and reforming state government before we begin any discussion of new revenue. Illinois now has a balance of power between those whose first instinct is to raise taxes and those who believe the path to good-paying jobs is through growing small business, not attacking it.

Speaker Madigan’s tax hike proposal isn’t new. It is the same cynical attempt to create class warfare as was proposed last year, when Illinois Democrats were similarly and instinctively demanding higher taxes.

The last tax hike forced upon working families by former Governor Quinn and legislative Democrats was supposed to balance the budget and pay off old bills. That didn’t happen. In 2011, when the temporary income tax increase went into effect, Illinois had an $8.5 billion backlog of unpaid bills. After collecting $31 billion in additional revenue, Illinois still has $6 billion in unpaid bills.

Illinois needs comprehensive reform that fundamentally changes the way we do business. We need honest negotiations between Governor Rauner and the General Assembly on how to clean up the fiscal mess, and any discussion of new revenue should come after reform, not before.

Workers’ Compensation
Illinois fails to take action to catch up to neighboring states. Sham workers’ compensation language was presented by the Democrat majority to the Illinois House on Friday, May 22. The language was broken up into four separate amendments to HB 1287 to give House Democrats the chance to cast multiple votes against the proposals. Workers’ compensation reform is strongly opposed by organized labor, trial lawyers and other powerful special interests.

Governor Rauner and the House Republicans continue to support real workers’ compensation reform as part of an overall agenda to turn around Illinois. To that end, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin filed HB 4223 on Friday, which contains Governor Rauner’s workers’ compensation reform proposals: a higher causation standard; AMA guidelines; fee schedule reduction; and Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission reforms.

Memorial Day
Memorial Day to be observed throughout Illinois. The day of remembrance for those who have served our country, especially those who have fallen in its service, will be observed on Monday, May 25. Memorial Day was raised from informal, local day of observance to national holiday through the effort of native Illinoisan General John A. Logan, a veteran of the Civil War and head of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Due to the significant workload facing the General Assembly before its scheduled May 31st adjournment, the Illinois House of Representatives will reconvene and resume its work on Monday.

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