For the third consecutive week the House Speaker has cancelled session. Time is running out. The end of the fiscal year is fast approaching. After session adjourned in May, the Speaker agreed to hold session once a week in the month of June. Every session has been canceled so far. If we do not pass anything this month, there will be complete chaos and it is becoming clear that the Speaker is fine with that.
State services will screech to a halt if no action is taken in Springfield. The House Democrats say there’s nothing to vote-on. Nothing to vote on! There’s plenty to vote on. Last week, I discussed the stopgap budget bills. They are simple, non-controversial solutions that would keep operations running for seniors, schools, mental health facilities, prisons and capital projects. Additionally, the legislature needs to authorize the federal funds so that the state can spend them. There is a lot we should be voting on and time is ticking.
The Comptroller gave a very bleak outlook this week. Comptroller Munger says we could be $12 billion behind on our bill payments. Right now the state is about three months behind on its payments. If no action is taken before the end of the month, we could be a few more months behind. "It's like having $100 in your checking account and $8,000 worth of bills on your table to pay now and another couple of thousand dollars coming in the mail and $116,000 on your credit card that you owe. You have to make a monthly contribution on that for the pension payment and you have $100,” she said at her press conference.
This is no way to run a state. Our social services are being irreparably harmed because they are not getting paid. Some of them have already been forced out of business. Our colleges, universities, and college students are waiting for their funds to be replenished. The $600 million dollar stopgap we approved in the spring has almost all been exhausted. All of this, and the Speaker says there’s nothing to vote-on.
It is clear that the majority party is willing to hold everyone hostage until the election. This isn’t a game. People’s lives are at stake. People’s jobs are hanging on by a thread. After this month, Illinois will be the first U.S. state since the Great Depression to try to operate for more than one year without a budget. As a result, Illinois now has the lowest credit ranking of all 50 states.
Illinois schools operated on schedule in 2015-2016. Despite the budget impasse, the General Assembly did pass an education bill for last year. This year however, it seems that Democrats aren’t interested in passing a standalone education bill. They want a bill that would bail out Chicago Public Schools and specifically the Chicago Teacher’s Pension Fund for several hundred million dollars. The House Republicans have introduced a standalone education bill, but the Speaker will not call it to a vote, fearing that Chicago Public Schools will not get bailed out. As they hold every student in this state hostage for a Chicago bailout, our kids could see their school programs vanish.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) says that their road projects will shut down. The state has money set-aside for construction projects however IDOT cannot spend the funds without authorization from the state legislature. The other bill in our bridge package, HB 6585, would serve as a stopgap for capital projects and keep our construction workers on the job.
HB 6585 and HB 6583 both sit in Springfield waiting to be called to a vote by the Speaker of the House.
Like I have said previously, there are solutions available to avoid a state shutdown. We have two bills that are temporary, non-controversial solutions that could be voted-on today that would stop this fiscal uncertainty among our schools, universities, human services, and capital projects. There is only one person standing in the way of it – Speaker Michael Madigan. This week’s column reminds me of a quote by Jim DeMint who said “Compromise works well in the world when you have shared goals.” It’s time we stop thinking about the November election and do what is right for the people of Illinois and pass these two bills.
As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815/232-0774 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or on Facebook.