Budgetary and Legislative Update

Fiscal Year 16 Budget Crisis
Governor Rauner, Republicans fight to prevent Illinois government shutdown.  Without a budget in place for the new Fiscal Year 2016 (which began on July 1), there is a possibility that paychecks could be delayed for approximately 65,000 state employees starting July 15.
 
Governor Rauner and his staff are examining their legal options. The governor stated on Monday, June 29 that “Our lawyers are working hard to ensure that all employees will be paid on their scheduled pay dates.”  Speaker Michael Madigan and Attorney General Lisa Madigan continued to assert that paychecks may well be delayed and parts of Illinois’ government shut down. 



Democrats push unbalanced temporary budget.  As the State of Illinois began its new fiscal year without a balanced budget in place, the Democrat majority attempted to take a piece-meal approach to the budget.  Democrats backed a temporary budget to fund certain services at a level that is not sustainable over the course of the entire fiscal year.
 
If the Democrats had chosen to divide Governor Rauner’s introduced budget, at the projected revenue estimate of $32 billion, the Governor would be willing to sign a one-month budget.  HB 4190 clearly did not contain one-month spending levels, and as such, was defeated on a partisan roll call of 67-01-32 (71 votes required).  However, Senate Democrats were able to narrowly pass a similarly unbalanced one-month budget over to the House.  SB 2040 has been assigned to the House Executive Committee.
 
The Democrat majority continues to insist on spending levels that are unsustainable. The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget believes this plan will ultimately require the expenditure of over $36 billion of GRF taxpayer resources for FY16.
 
The Democrats’ bill marches the taxpayers of Illinois toward an unbalanced budget one month at a time.  It does not matter if they pass 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.  The math just doesn’t add up.
 
House Republicans stand united in our support for a truly balanced budget that protects the interests of taxpayers, working families and seniors.
Governor Rauner vetoes pay hike for legislators.  Current State law grants automatic cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to members of the Illinois House and Senate, as well as elected statewide officials.  In FY16, this law was scheduled to grant pay hikes to lawmakers for $1,356 to $1,905, in addition to their existing salaries and stipends.
 
On Wednesday, July 1, Governor Bruce Rauner used his amendatory veto power to strike out the automatic COLA increase for elected State officials and lawmakers.  The veto also freezes lawmakers’ “per diem” daily expense money and travel mileage.   The Governor’s action on SB 1354 will be effective through June 30, 2016, unless overridden by the General Assembly.
 
The Governor’s veto message reads in part: “A balanced budget requires shared sacrifice. My Administration has reduced State personnel costs among agencies under my jurisdiction by $4 million during the first four full months (February through May) of this year, compared to the same period last year. […]
 
“I recommend that Senate Bill 1354 be changed to eliminate raises for legislators, elected officers of the Executive Branch, and agency directors and other highly compensated State officials, and to freeze the per diem amount and mileage reimbursement rate. Budget implementation bills must give us the tools to implement a balanced and realistic budget, and this change is an important step in closing our budget deficit. A similar provision has been enacted for each of the past six fiscal years.”
 
House Republicans lead effort to stop legislative pay raises.  After defeating the Democrat majority’s unbalanced temporary budget, House Republicans took to the floor Wednesday in an effort to stop the automatic legislative pay raises from being enacted.
 
Speaker Madigan called us back to Springfield this week to discuss shutting state government down if he doesn’t get his way.  The Democrats want to raise taxes again on working families to pay for more spending, including a pay raise for themselves. A 2 percent raise for members of the General Assembly will automatically go into effect unless we pass legislation specifically to stop it. 
 
House Republicans are pushing for passage of HB4225 to do just that.  Our legislation specifically prohibits cost-of-living adjustments for members of the General Assembly and other elected state office holders in the new fiscal year. 
 
We will be facing many difficult budget decisions in the coming weeks… but this should be an easy one.  We’re in a full-blown fiscal crisis. We’re facing a $5 billion backlog of unpaid bills and struggling to find the resources to pay for vital services. It’s unconscionable that Democrats in the General Assembly would even consider accepting a pay raise.
 
Fight for Property Tax Freeze
Illinois property taxes among highest in U.S.  Existing laws to limit Illinois property taxes, including statutory caps on rates and a partial freeze on property tax extensions, have not been successful in halting these increases.  The complex law that partly freezes property tax extensions is disliked by many taxpayers because of the many loopholes that have been carved into the law.  Home rule units such as Cook County and the city of Chicago are completely exempt from the extension freeze, and non-home-rule units such as school districts are able to ask for, and get, annual increases (tied to inflation) in their “frozen” extensions. 
 
A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Republicans and Governor Rauner, are fighting to implement a property tax freeze.  By completely freezing Illinois property tax extensions (no exceptions) for two years, Illinois can grant relief to our taxpayers.  The same two-year period will create a window of opportunity, with a deadline, to carry out real discussions to change our school funding formula and look seriously at the way we fund public schools.  
 
Illinois has begun issuing driver’s licenses with veteran’s status.  The new cards, announced this week by the Secretary of State, will be voluntary for all veterans who have received an honorable discharge.  This includes all DD-214-carrying certified completers of U.S. military service.  Qualified veterans are invited, but not required, to work with the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs to obtain a certified copy of their DD-214.  Then, the veteran is invited to present the certified discharge paper at any office of the Secretary of State’s Office of Driver Services when he or she is applying for a new or renewed Illinois driver’s license or State ID card.  The newly-printed card will display the driver or resident’s status as a service veteran.   The revised card format became effective on Wednesday, July 1.

 
The new drivers’ license cards are being offered, free of additional charge, to Illinois veterans as the result of a bill shepherded through the House by Rep. Mike Fortner.  SB 2837 directed the Secretary of State to modify its driver’s license/ID card format to include the veterans’ honor designation.  The bill became law as Public Act 97-739.