Update from the Capitol 7/7/2017
Friday, July 07, 2017 - Posted 9:44:42 AM by Rep. Tom Bennett
As always, you can contact me via webform at www.repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106 (Watseka).|
House overrides Governor's budget, tax vetoes
As you have probably read and heard, the House passed a budget and a tax increase on Sunday night. The spending bill, Senate Bill 6, appropriates more than $36 billion for the state for the fiscal year which began on July 1. The revenue bill, Senate Bill 9, raises the state's income tax from 3.75% up to 4.95% and the corporate income tax from 5.25% up to 7%. Supporters of the bill say these hikes will bring in around $4.7 billion, enough to pay for all the spending in SB 6.
I voted No on the tax increase, No on the spending bill and No on overriding the Governor's vetoes.
This was a difficult decision to make, given the crisis the state has been in for far too long. But in the end there were a lot of reasons to vote No. Probably the biggest was the fact that this budget deal did not include any reforms to our broken state government. We had a chance to take action to make sure nothing like this crisis ever happened again, and instead, we blinked. Without reforms to create jobs and address long-term challenges, I fear we will be right back here again in the future dealing with the same problems. We are not going to solve them with last-minute, emergency proposals and the same old tax-and-spend behavior.
The fact is that nobody won here. The problems we face are well known: a toxic partisan environment grips state government, important state institutions like our public universities are on the verge of collapse, people and jobs are moving out of our state by the thousands and every year we fall farther and farther behind our neighbors in job creation. While this bill puts a budget in place, and raises the taxes to pay for it, it does not address the issues that are making these problems worse every year.
Negotiations were ongoing across several issues: workers compensation reform, pension reform, property taxes and local government consolidation. We could have had a broad agreement that would have reformed our badly broken state government and put a budget in place to start repairing the terrible damage that has been done in these past years.
The word around the Capitol was that progress was being made and agreements were very close. As a sign of confidence and good faith Republican leadership and many rank-and-file members including me voted for an amendment to the spending bill Friday morning, thinking that it was the first step in the agreement we all wanted. Instead, Speaker Madigan pulled the plug on the negotiations and ran the budget and tax bills without any reforms.
A few hours before the vote, we received the final version of the budget bill: all 630 pages of it. This came just after we had the 580-page revenue bill dropped on our desks. Members and staff were still reviewing them as they were being brought up for debate. I felt like these two actions showed the lack of interest by the Democrats for true debate or true compromise.
A few years ago, a prominent Washington politician said we had to "pass the bill to find out what's in it." I don't believe in doing things that way. Without having had adequate time to read the bill and to understand exactly what was in it; but knowing that it did not include any of the reforms that our state sorely needs; I felt the only responsible action was to vote No, and continue working for a broad compromise on the budget and reforms.
The bills passed the House Sunday night and Monday. The Senate passed the bills on Tuesday, Governor Rauner immediately vetoed them, and the Senate then quickly voted to override his veto. The House followed suit on Thursday, and the budget and tax increase went into effect immediately after the vote.As I have studied the bills, here are some things I have observed. The budget does little toward bringing down the bill backlog. We owe close to $15 billion in overdue bills, and the interest on those bills will continue to grow. Last Friday, a federal court ordered the Comptroller to pay Medicaid Managed Care Organizations at a monthly rate of $586 million. The Comptroller said that in order to comply with that order, by August she will delay school aid payments and pension payments. This budget bill does nothing to help with that impending crisis. The revenue bill is a permanent tax increase without any property tax relief to help taxpayers; nor any other changes to the broken system that taxpayers must now pay more money into.
We need real change and real reform. Education is critical, just as social services and protecting our elderly are critical. Protecting taxpayers is critical. We need to do better. This deal does not do the things we needed it to do in order to really improve things in our state. We need to get this done right.
9-1-1 bill becomes law
Legislation to continue the operations of 9-1-1 call centers around the state became law over the weekend. The existing state telecommunications act, which allowed fees to be collected and spent for 9-1-1 centers, expired on June 30. Without an extension, the centers would not have been legally able to continue operating. I voted in favor of the extension to keep them going.House Bill 1811 renewed the authorization for the centers to continue operating. It also includes a slight hike in the telephone surcharge collected for 9-1-1 call centers so that they may maintain and upgrade their infrastructure. In Chicago, the fee will go up by $1.10 per month, while in the rest of the state it will increase by 63 cents.
House Bill 1811 had been vetoed by Governor Rauner, but the House voted 90-22 to override and the Senate followed with a 43-1 vote. The bill became law immediately.
So, what now?
With the override of the Governor's veto, the tax bill and spending bill immediately became law. So Illinois now has a budget in place for all of Fiscal Year 2018, which began last weekend and runs through June 30, 2018. The legislature is still in "continuous session" for the summer. We could always be called back by the Governor or the Speaker to address any of the issues that were left undone, such as the reforms that were still being negotiated at the time the budget passed. Only time will tell. We still have a great deal of work left to do.