Latest News

The Fight for the Future of Illinois

Happy Independence Day! I hope you all enjoy the holiday festivities while keeping in mind the sacrifices for our freedom so many have made. Enjoy your BBQs and fireworks and parades, and never forget.

The rumbling of a state government shutdown is no more in question.  July 1st came and went without a balanced budget in place.  The stalled negotiations over the budget in Springfield empowered Democrat leadership to continue to muscle its veto-proof majority through politically charged show-trials and sham legislation votes with no compromise in sight.

The Governor recently stated, “This is a fight for the future of Illinois.”  Well, he’s exactly right. We are in a fight to change the way government operates.  Illinois’ devious political culture has been threatened and the powers that be are starting to feel the pressure.  Don’t be fooled by their temporary solutions or their parade of what-ifs.  The fact remains that we need a balanced budget that aims to spend less than what we take in.  The rhetoric might seem redundant in recent columns, but it’s the honest truth.  
 
This week, we began session on Tuesday with another “Committee of the Whole” that discussed government operations.  A panel of organizations around Illinois addressed the House with their concerns and possible financial problems that could occur if a shutdown was permitted.

During the doomsday testimony of government operations, per usual as of late, House Speaker Mike Madigan held a press conference to alert the media that a short-termed budget solution would be voted on during session on Wednesday.  “This is a one-month budget.  This is a reasonable budget,” Madigan said.  This one-month budget would relieve some of the pressure legislators are experiencing from constituents back in their districts and once again give reason to create a political mail piece for anyone who would dare not vote with the Speaker.

In reality, this was the Democrat majorities attempt to take a piece-meal approach to the budget by backing a temporary budget to fund certain services at a level that is not sustainable over the course of the entire fiscal year.

Tuesday concluded with the understanding that we would resume the government operation discussions on Wednesday and vote on the Speaker’s “one-month budget.”  We had till midnight on Tuesday to work on a solution before the state would begin to shut down, but instead, we adjourned.

On Wednesday morning, we resumed the “Committee of the Whole” concerning government operations.  We heard more stories and possible outcomes from the effects of a government shutdown.  That afternoon, House Speaker Madigan called for the “one-month budget” to be voted on.  To my surprise, the neediest services that gave hours of testimony during the “Committee of the Whole” were not funded in this bill.

All this bill would do is march the taxpayers of Illinois toward an unbalanced budget one month at a time.  No matter how they slice it and dice it, the math just doesn’t add up.  It still does not fix the problem.  I would guess if Democrats were serious about fixing the unbalanced budget they passed in May, that they would have already used their veto proof power to override the Governor’s veto of their $4 billion out of whack budget.  However, that means they would have to use their super majority to pass a tax increase as well.

It’s pretty clear where both sides stand at this point.  One side wants to spend $4 billion more than actual revenues, with a tax increase attached, while the other side wants structural reform to government and a balanced budget that is fiscally responsible to the taxpayers in Illinois.  My colleagues and I stand united in our support for a truly balanced budget that protects the interests of taxpayers, working families, and seniors.

I and all other elected officials are here to represent the people of Illinois.  I am proud to make my weekly trip to Springfield to represent the 89th District and the good people of Northwest Illinois. We elected a new governor because they wanted to change our government processes.  Change will not be easy, and as the debacle continues to unfold, our perseverance for the good of our State will be tested, but the fight for the future of Illinois must be pursued and the powers to be must be challenged.

Once again, President Abraham Lincoln said it best, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”  It does not matter if Democrat leadership passes a one-month budget, a six-month budget or an entire fiscal year’s budget.  As long as the Democrats continue to spend more money than we take in, it’s still an unbalanced, unconstitutional budget.


FAQs for Budget Situation
We understand state employees have questions on how their benefits will be impacted as the state budget is no longer in place beginning July 1. The following Q&As were designed to help answer any questions you may have.
Employee Benefits
Q.  Will an employee's health, dental or life insurance be affected?
A.  No. Group insurance coverage during a budget situation will not be impacted. If paychecks are delayed, and as long as the employee continues to work and earn a paycheck, insurance premiums will be taken accordingly. The missed payroll deductions will be taken once paychecks are issued.
Q.  What will happen to an employee's contributions to any flexible spending accounts (i.e., MCAP, DCAP) during the budget situation?
A.
Ø  Employees enrolled in MCAP will not be impacted. ConnectYourCare debit cards will continue to work. If the employee continues to work and earn a paycheck, deductions should be taken accordingly. If MCAP deductions are missed, they must be made up when the budget situation is resolved.
Ø  Employees enrolled in DCAP may be impacted as reimbursements are limited to the available account balance contained in their DCAP account. If the employee continues to work and earn a paycheck, and once all payroll deductions are deposited into the DCAP account, reimbursements can be made for eligible expenses up to the available account balance.
Q.  What will happen to an employee's Commuter Savings Program benefit?
A.  Employees enrolled in the Commuter Savings Program will continue to receive the benefit under this program. Employees will owe any underpaid amount upon their return to payroll.
Workers' Compensation Program
Q.  Will an employee's Workers' Compensation benefits be affected?
A.  No. In the event of a budget situation, Temporary Total Disability (TTD), Permanent Total Disability (PTD) and survivor death benefit payments under the Workers' Compensation Act will continue through July. Work-related injuries should continue to be reported through the procedures in place today.
Deferred Compensation Program
Q. What will happen to an employee's Deferred Compensation contributions during the budget situation?
A.  As long as the employee continues to work and earn a paycheck, payroll deductions for Deferred Compensation should be taken accordingly. Deferred Compensation contributions can only be made through payroll deduction. The employee cannot deposit money directly to his or her fund to catch-up the contributions.
Q.  If an individual is currently receiving a distribution from their Deferred Compensation account, will that distribution continue during the budget situation?
A.  Yes. Current distributions and changes to distribution amounts will continue to be processed. To make any changes in distribution, call T. Rowe Price at 1-888-457-5770.
Q.  Will hardship distributions/loans from an employee's Deferred Compensation account be available during the budget situation?
A.  A loan provision is available at any time and allows a participant to have one outstanding loan and borrow a minimum of $1,000 up to a maximum of $50,000 or 50% of their account balance over a five year period. The interest you pay goes back to your account along with the principal amount each month as you repay the loan through Automatic Clearing House (ACH) deductions from your bank. Employees would likely not qualify for a hardship distribution as they will be made whole of any missed payrolls when the budget situation ends.
Q.  How do I borrow from my Deferred Compensation account?
A.  To apply for a loan from your account over the phone, call T. Rowe Price at 1-888-457-5770 to speak to a Representative. There is a $75 processing fee and you will need to supply bank routing and account information for your checking/savings account numbers to set up the automatic ACH deduction. Participants are allowed one outstanding loan at a time. You may repay the full loan balance amount at any time through the same phone number at T. Rowe Price.
State Employee Compensation
Q. What options exist if certain parties take action to temporarily block pay for state employees?
A. State employees will be paid for their work. If certain parties take action to temporarily block pay for state employees, there may be an opportunity for employees to get bridge loans from local financial institutions. Credit Union 1, for example, has already agreed to offer no-interest loans for qualifying members of the credit union should salary payments for state employees be delayed. To be eligible to receive 0% interest loans from Credit Union 1, participants must have been members on or before May 1, 2015. Employees who have become members of Credit Union 1 since May 1, 2015, can apply for a loan, subject to normal criteria, rates and terms.
What’s Really Happening in Springfield?

I’ve been inundated with inquiries regarding the “inside” happenings of Springfield. Constituents have seen the news, press conferences, and the attack mailers circulating the state and while two sides initially engaged in a dialogue, it has devolved into one side yelling and the other side trying to have a conversation. Some of you reading this have questioned, why the Republicans keep voting “present” on the “Governor’s legislation.” Well, Democratic leadership continues to play games with the lives of our citizenry by creating a budget that is $4 billion over projected tax revenue. When the government doesn’t have the money, it means a tax increase on all of us. Governor Rauner and many Republicans across the state have refused to consider a tax hike without structural reform. This means Republicans refuse to vote for a tax increase until the Democrats will implement changes to our system that would drive Illinois back to more prosperous times. My friend, colleague, and House Minority Floor Leader, Representative Ron Sandack, recently wrote an incredibly succinct synopsis of the shenanigans in Springfield.

Rep. Sandack is excerpted below:

“Illinois’ voters elected a Republican Governor and a Democrat-controlled House and Senate. That means there are Democrats who voted for Bruce Rauner because they want the state’s fiscal crisis addressed once and for all. Divided, or I prefer shared, government is still very new in Illinois and there have definitely been some growing pains. Because the majority party has controlled the House, Senate and the Governor’s office for the last 12 years, there formerly was a noticeable lack of checks and balances. Democrat lawmakers could push their agenda through knowing former Governors Quinn and Blagojevich would likely sign it. Simply put, they’ve been used to getting their way. Now, the majority party must deal with a Republican Governor who has pledged to veto bills that keep Illinois on a bad financial path. This is not sitting well with House Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton.

Governor Rauner came to Springfield on January 12 ready to tackle important issues, and formed numerous bipartisan working groups which included Republicans and Democrats from both the House and Senate. He wanted these bipartisan and bicameral groups to negotiate and compromise until common ground could be found in several areas. Governor Rauner’s plan to turn things around in Illinois includes several reform initiatives that aim to reduce fraud, waste and abuse, and make Illinois a business-friendly state to increase job growth. The Governor also said he would entertain an increase in revenue, but only after some of his reform initiatives were approved by lawmakers. To that end, the following reform bills were filed in the House in May by Republicans:
HJRCA39: Term Limits; HJRCA40: Fair Maps; HB4223: Workers Compensation Reform; HB4224: Property Tax Freeze and Voter Empowerment for Local Collective Bargaining; HB4214: Allowing for Municipal Bankruptcy; and HB4222: Lawsuit (tort) Reform.

Speaker Madigan has said he does not think budget talks should be tied to non-budget issues, but the Governor is adamant that they be discussed together. Why? Because Illinoisans need only look back at the temporary tax hike of 2011 to see that simply pouring more money into the state’s coffers does nothing to fix the structural reforms that have driven the state into the ground. Budgeting without reforms means the status quo continues. The voters of Illinois sent a clear message in November that the status quo is no longer acceptable.

Governor Rauner and Republican lawmakers have shown [their] willingness to compromise. Empowerment Zones, or right to work zones, were an initial element of the Governor Rauner reform agenda, but he has since agreed to remove that item from the table for consideration. In fact, recently the Governor unilaterally removed other items from the table too. These compromises were met by Speaker Madigan with more digging in of his heels and a renewed refusal to budge.

Democrats ultimately walked away from the bipartisan working groups and said they are not interested in reforms. In fact, in spite of the Governor’s clear directive of reform before taxes, Speaker Madigan has held all six reform measures in the Rules Committee and has refused to bring them to the House floor for full consideration. By not allowing the reform bills to be heard, Speaker Madigan, by his own actions, took discussions of reform, and therefore new revenue too, off the table.

[Democrats created and passed a] budget with zero input from the Republicans and zero input from the Governor’s Office. Speaker Madigan said “no” to bipartisanship and “no” to reforms, but now he wants bipartisan votes on a tax increase that he knows will be incredibly unpopular. Without reforms, the Republicans are not going to support an increase in revenue. If the Democrats want to raise taxes, they have the supermajority votes in both chambers to make it happen.

With the normal session adjournment date of May 31 now passed, the Speaker is calling the Representatives back to Springfield one day each week. Are we being called down so we can negotiate a balanced budget prior to the end of the current fiscal year on June 30? No. Are we being called back to consider the reform bills that represent the Rauner plan to help fix our state? No. We are being called to Springfield for a series of show trials where the Speaker is making a mockery of the process, and is collecting sound bites and roll call votes for the next election cycle where he hopes to strengthen his super-majority. It truly has been Springfield at its absolute worst.

What you’re seeing on the House floor right now is insincere legislation, sponsored by Speaker Madigan’s leading allies and masked as “Rauner bills,” that are part of a plan to thumb their noses at bipartisanship and reform. Their bills are not just insincere; they are sham legislation meant to embarrass the Governor. As a House Republican Caucus we are not supporting the sham legislation that is being sponsored by the Democrats that Speaker Madigan controls. We are standing together and refusing to be bullied into maintaining a status quo that has all but destroyed our state.

At this point we have a spending plan of $36 billion, projected revenues of $32 billion, and a controlling party that has said no to spending discipline, no to job-creating reforms, no to fair maps/redistricting and no to term limits, while asking for bipartisan votes on a tax hike. In a negotiation, each side needs to give something up. Governor Rauner took several of his reform measures off the table; now let’s see the Democrats give something up. Republicans remain ready to negotiate, and hope the Democrats return to the table so we can engage in an honest discussion about compromise and get past this stalemate.

The citizens of Illinois voted for shared policy-making and lawmakers now need to work together to make that happen.”

Asking the people of Illinois for an additional $4 billion in tax dollars reminds me once again of a quote by Thomas Jefferson, “I predict happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815/232-0774 or email us at repstewart@gmail.com. You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.
Springfield

The last week of session is coming to a close and we have yet to agree on a budget that will begin on July 1st. However, it’s not from a lack of effort. Working groups have been meeting for months to negotiate a bipartisan budget. Instead, Democrat leadership walked away from the table and crafted a budget that mirrors previous years’ budgets, leaving Illinois in snowballing debt.

House Speaker Mike Madigan introduced a $36 billion budget during a press conference on Memorial Day, $4 billion more than the expected $32 billion in revenue for FY2016. The Speaker made it clear that Democrat leadership would work with the Governor to find revenue to fund the $4 billion, but would not negotiate a bipartisan budget.

Only a tax increase will adequately fund the extra $4 billion the House Speaker wants to tack on to the budget. The last income tax increase he and his party passed to fix a budget deficit generated billions in revenue but did nothing to resolve Illinois’ financial woes.

Speaker Madigan’s unbalanced budget violates the Illinois Constitution. Article VIII, Section 2 (b), states that “The General Assembly by law shall make appropriations for all expenditures of public funds by the State. Appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year.” The Illinois legislature repeatedly undermines the Constitution by passing budget after budget that exceeds funds available.

Illinois does not have the financial resources available to sustain its spending habits without significant reforms, reforms that must be made by cutting unnecessary expenses. It’s time for Illinois government to learn to live like you and I have—within our means.

Lincoln Sculpture Unveiled 

Local artist Ramon “Jay” Castro crafted and donated a 27 inch bronze sculpture of Captain Abraham Lincoln to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum this past week. The sculpture was created to remind the nation of history of the Black Hawk War of June, 1832, which included citizen soldier Abraham Lincoln. The experience of the conflict the young militia captain witnessed certainly reflected on decisions he would later make as President.  

The not-for-profit project, sponsored by Stephenson County, is aiming to place a 7 foot bronze sculpture of Captain Abraham Lincoln at the Black Hawk War Memorial, located near Kent, Illinois, site of the 1882 Kellogg’s Grove Battle. The Lincoln sculpture will complement the National Historic Plaque, laid in 1969.

The sculpture will be on display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in honor of the project and local artist. Donations for the project can be mailed to, Captain Lincoln Sculpture, State Bank of Freeport, PO Box 778, Freeport, Illinois 61032.

Memorial Day

On Memorial Day the House honored and remembered those who were called to serve our country. Thank you to all the men and women who have sacrificed their lives so that we can live ours. We also cannot fail to forget the families who have lost a loved one for their country. It is a true honor to know we live in the best nation in the world. Please don’t neglect to remember the fallen. They sacrificed their freedom for yours. As we honor our fallen heroes and as we consider the recent shenanigans in Springfield, let us consider an apt quote by Mark Twain: “patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”  

Representatives from the Illinois Department of Transportation will be making a stop in Galena this coming Friday as part of their statewide listening tour. The Galena Chamber of Commerce will host the event at the DeSoto House Hotel located at 230 S. Main Street in Galena, Illinois.

The event is open to the public who wish to express their concerns or introduce an idea to help create a better transportation environment for the Northwest Region of Illinois. People who cannot make the event can still participate by filling out the SURVEY online.

Invitation from IDOT -

"The Illinois Department of Transportation and Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn, in coordination with the Illinois Capital Development Board, invite you to take part in a series of informal public meetings being conducted throughout the state.

This dialogue, emphasizing quality of life and economic growth, will establish priorities for future investment in our transportation system.

These meetings are intended to be a listening tour, sparking discussion that ultimately leads to a package of recommendations that can be presented to Governor Rauner and General Assembly for consideration this spring.

Dates and locations will be updated as additional meetings are confirmed.

Our mission is to start a statewide conversation that lays the groundwork for a realistic, sustainable plan for bringing our infrastructure into the 21st century."
State Representative Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) recognized Christ Lutheran Church of Stockton on the occasion of the church's 125th anniversary by introducing House Resolution 496. The celebration of the 125th anniversary of the establishment of Christ Lutheran Church will be held on October 3 and 4, 2015.


A military event at Apple River Fort State Historic Site will be recalling the service of the Illinois Militia during the Black Hawk War this Saturday. The focus is the militia company of Captain Clack Stone. Military pageantry, martial drill, musket demonstrations, and much more!




EVENT INFORMATION

WHEN: Saturday, May 23, 2015, 10am – 3pm

WHERE: Apple River Fort State Historic Site
                311 East Myrtle St.
                Elizabeth, IL 61028

CONTACT EMAIL: sheilac@sandprairie.net

CONTACT PHONE: 815-828-8028