Week of Disappointing Priorities

In last week’s column, we talked about HB 40 – a bill that, at face value, expands taxpayer-funded abortions in Illinois. But at its core, the bill’s primary purpose was to force the Governor into a corner – he had to choose between siding with pro-abortion advocates or pro-life advocates. It truly was a game of “Pin the Tail on the Governor.” It should come as no surprise that I voted “No” on HB 40.

So after a week of political gamesmanship, we still don’t have a budget. But what do we have? The House soundly passed a taxpayer-funded abortion expansion. As the House passes toxic bills that do nothing to improve our state, the window on reaching a budget is closing. With only five weeks left until session ends, we are running perilously short on time.

In a pointed editorial, the Chicago Tribune addressed HB 40: "You can't count on the Illinois General Assembly to pass a balanced budget. But you can count on lawmakers to pass heater bills that are sure to show up in campaign materials during the next election cycle. And so on Tuesday, House lawmakers passed a bill that would significantly shift long-standing state policy on taxpayer funding of abortions. The bill, now headed to the Senate, would include abortions as covered procedures in the health plans of Medicaid recipients and state workers. Both groups rely on taxpayers to subsidize their health care. Owing to public disagreement, public funding of abortion coverage has been deliberately left out of their plans except in cases of rape, incest or to protect the life or health of the mother. For elective abortions, members of these two groups have been expected to pay out of pocket. This bill would change that. But gubernatorial politics and scare tactics are playing big roles in what ought to be a serious statewide policy debate. The chief sponsor, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, and other supporters have tried to make the bill a political trap for Gov. Bruce Rauner and a way to exploit fear of President Donald Trump's U.S. Supreme Court picks. But it's really about putting Illinois taxpayers on the hook for more abortions, a nationally unpopular policy."

And then the Rockford Register Star addressed the budget crisis in an editorial this week: “We look with alarm at the repeated warning from financial rating agencies about our state’s sliding credit rating. At the end of March, Moody’s Investor Services issued another such warning that said if Illinois doesn’t pass a budget by May 31, the end of the legislative session, the state will face unsustainable fiscal challenges and risk long-term damage to universities and social service providers because of unpaid bills.”

It’s not just editorial boards and government watchdogs that are sounding the alarm, its people all across Illinois. It’s the social service agencies that are being starved of much needed funds, it’s college students who are afraid their classroom doors might not be open next semester, and it’s constituents of the 89th District who send me correspondence every day.

I’m a believer in Illinois. Though I’m disappointed at the course our legislature has chosen to take, I’m heartened by the hard-working people that keep this state moving. We don’t have a budget, but we do have millions of Illinoisans who are demanding that the legislature do their job. Illinois’ working families balance their budgets, and they rightly expect their state to do the same. I know this because I’ve read the hundreds and hundreds of comments that you have sent to me. And you have my word – I will be doing everything I can to reach that goal.

Finally, as I remind myself on a daily basis, we cannot let our disappointment in the squandered opportunities of yesterday overpower our optimism in achieving positive results today. As someone once said, “The past cannot be changed, but the future is still in our power.”

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com  and use the contact form to send me an e-mail.

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