Budgets, Bill Signing & Youth Activities

I have nothing new to report as we wrapped up the fifth week of the new fiscal year without a balanced budget in place.  Instead of voting on a balanced budget the House Speaker once again issued his talking points for another round of show-trials.  

This is a continuation of the “gotcha politics” at the expense of families who need us to put differences aside and pass a balanced budget.  The right thing is usually the hardest thing to do and this week was full of easy things. 

Speaking of budgets, I wanted to share with you our district office budget information.  Since being elected into office in 2014, I have given money back from the district allotment every fiscal year.  In FY 2014 I returned $21,314.45 to the state and in FY15 I returned a little over $13,000 which represents 19% of our annual office allotment.

I believe legislators and other elected officials should be leading by example if we are asking everyone to share in the sacrifices needed to get our finances in order.  For months now, Democrats in Illinois have known legislators were going to receive a pay raise, and they did nothing until mounting pressure from the taxpayers finally woke them up. 

House Republicans filed legislation (HB 4225) to reject the pay raises two months ago.  The Democrat majority had repeated opportunities to deny the COLA in a timely fashion.  Rather than doing the right thing, they waited until the last minute; a time when many would say it is too late.
Now, no matter what we do, the pay raise will go through for at least the next paycheck, as the Senate won’t be here to act on the House bill until at least next week.  So while it’s better late than never, the Democrat majority should have allowed a vote on HB4225 before it got to this point.

This past week was more than just budgets.  I had a very important piece of legislation signed into law by Governor Rauner that is important to remember.  House Bill 246 designates December 23 of each year as "Scott's Law Day"  to honor public safety workers and to remind motorists to slow down, change lanes away from a stationary authorized emergency vehicle, and proceed with due regard to safety and traffic conditions.

As a former law enforcement officer, I have seen firsthand how dangerous it can be during a traffic stop.  Each year we are reminded of this danger with the names of fallen officers who were killed in-the-line of duty during a traffic stop, assisting a motorist or working an accident scene.
Scott’s Law Day is to remind us and never let us forget the public safety workers whose lives were taken by a motorist passing by.  It’s simple, change lanes away from a stationary authorized emergency vehicle, and then proceed with caution to avoid an unforeseen accident that could occur while driving.

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend with your kids, the Illinois Conservation Foundation will be hosting a free Open House at the Torstenson Youth Conservation Education Center which is a 750 acre youth outdoor education property in Pecatonica to highlight conservation activities this Sunday, August 2nd from 12:00pm to 5:00pm.

The event will have kid-focused hands-on activities for a fun family event.  There will be a live animal show, archery range, crafts, free lunch and more.  Additional organizations that will be on-site include the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, and more.  In addition to scheduled events, the ICF is also offering tours of the full property to see the new catch-and-release fishing pond, the beautiful 11,000 square-foot log cabin and archery range.

This event will occur rain or shine, and food will be provided in return for donations to the ICF and Torstenson Center.  The Torstenson Center is located at 13735 Cook Road just east of Pecatonica, IL.  You may visit www.ilcf.org or call (217) 785-2003 for more information.

While we work on finding a bi-partisan solution to fix the budget I would implore each and every one of you to send me an email or contact me on my website with your thoughts.  Thank you to those who already have.

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing,” Theodore Roosevelt.  The right thing to do is to pass a balanced bipartisan budget, but again we did nothing.  
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.