Government Shutdown Looms Over Budget Talks



***Guest Column***

Today I would like to tell you what we had achieved in the Capitol over the past week, but unfortunately Speaker Madigan cancelled our day to meet. It is disheartening, disappointing, and flat out sad that he cancelled the General Assembly’s opportunity to continue discussing the issues that face this state. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin introduced two bills that we should have voted on this week.

The first will ensure schools remain open this fall. Every school district in the state relies on General State Aid. In the past, schools were shortchanged by the legislature. They only received a fraction of what the State of Illinois had promised them. Then, the government used those funds to pay other bills. Today, House Bill 6583 would fully fund the General State Aid formula for the first time in seven years.

The second, House Bill 6585 is a budget bridge and capital bill that would see that state operations continue to work until January 1, 2017. This bill provides 453.6 million dollars to universities and 146.9 million dollars for community colleges. It would give Human Services, like the Departments of Aging and Public Health, a total of 180 million dollars. These health service providers have been struggling for the past year and the Republicans are offering a real, albeit temporary, solution to their problems. Since the Democrats tried to pass their fake budget, they have not had any ideas on how to fix our state’s issues. The Speaker is holding out, waiting for the Senate to pass his fake and 7-billion-dollar-short spending plan that would require raising taxes a whopping 47 percent.

The fact our session was cancelled this week tells me one thing: The Speaker is determined to worsen this crisis. In his mind, nothing matters except for the City of Chicago and that City has serious financial problems. Chicago has some of the lowest property taxes in Illinois, yet they refuse to raise taxes to fix their pension problem. Instead, they point the finger at Springfield and expect the State and the rest of Illinois tax payers to bail them out.

Let me be clear, I will not let a bailout for Chicago Public Schools keep our schools in Northwest Illinois from opening this fall. I was elected to represent the people of the 89th District, not the City of Chicago. I will fight to keep our schools funded and their doors open. This “unfair funding formula” pitch that the Democrats continue to holler about is just a fabrication. It’s a smokescreen to distract everyone from what they are really doing. They are taking from other schools around the state and using the money to bail out Chicago schools.

Lastly, this week Attorney General Lisa Madigan began pursuing ways to stop Illinois government workers from being paid. This would effectively shut down the state government. It would cause a catastrophic meltdown and that is exactly what the Speaker wants to happen. People will get hurt and when people get hurt, logic goes right out the window. The other side of the aisle is fighting with everything they have to maintain the status quo and continue to drag Illinois down with the ship.

The Republicans are trying to offer logical, reasonable solutions but are not given the Speaker’s permission to get legislation called for a vote. The bridge package mentioned above includes sensible ways to keep things running while we negotiate this “Grand Compromise.” We could have passed it this week. Instead, we were told to stay home. This week was cancelled. It is disheartening that our schools and human services and the rest of the State are at the will of one individual - House Speaker Mike Madigan.

Our saga continues and unfortunately will likely drag on all summer. In the meantime our businesses, service providers and our citizens continue to consider their options about their future and our state’s future. As we consider our options I am reminded of a quote this week by President John F. Kennedy who stated “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word “crisis”. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger—but recognize the opportunity.” There is no time like the present to come together and seize the opportunity for the change Illinois needs to prosper once again.

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815/232-0774 or e-mail us at repstewart@gmail.com. You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or on Facebook.