Senate Week in Review: January 27-31
SPRINGFIELD, IL – As anticipated, Gov. Pat Quinn’s annual State-of-the-State address was long on promises, but short on details.
And while State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said recent progress is encouraging, Illinois still faces serious challenges and a grim financial outlook that the Governor ignored during his Jan. 29 speech to a joint session of the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives.
“Governor Quinn kept saying that Illinois is making a comeback throughout his speech, but he must have a different definition of a comeback than I do,” Sen. Rezin said. “Illinois is projected to be last in the nation in job growth, has the worst financial condition of any state, and has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the nation and the worst credit in the nation.”
While the Governor touted a modest decrease in the state’s backlog of unpaid bills, he skipped over projections from his own budget office that show the backlog will balloon to $16 billion in three years.
“He mentioned that our backlog of bills has gone down, but just a few weeks ago, his own office projected that the backlog will grow from $6 billion to $16 billion by fiscal year 17,” Sen. Rezin noted. “People are not fooled. Unfortunately, we are seeing more people leave Illinois than move in due to the fiscal mismanagement and poor job opportunities. Governor Quinn mentioned a few positive initiatives, like incentives for small businesses and improvements to infrastructure, but once again we saw lofty goals with little details on how to pay for them and no plan for how to get our fiscal house in order.”
Sen. Rezin said the lack of details left lawmakers anxious to see Quinn’s budget plan, which he is scheduled to unveil later in February.
Governor Wants More Spending
With the Democrat’s 67% income tax hike set for a major rollback next January, Quinn’s budget plan must explain how he plans to reconcile the tax reduction with the laundry list of spending increases he outlined in his State-of-the-State speech.
The Governor called for increasing the state’s earned income tax credit on personal income taxes, cutting business filing fees, doubling state-paid college scholarships and spending more on early childhood education.
The Quinn Administration’s previously released three-year budget plan also projected significant new spending without revenues to support the expenditures.
The Governor also called for increasing the state’s minimum wage and requiring employers to offer paid sick leave to workers. While those proposals are well-intentioned, critics noted they could have unintended consequences as businesses eliminate jobs or reduce worker hours to make up for the added expenses.
Republican lawmakers argue that improving the economy, reducing Illinois’ high unemployment rate and fostering growth in jobs that pay more than the minimum wage offer low-income workers a better path to the middle class.
Go Red For Women Event at State Capitol
Sen. Rezin joined in the fight against heart disease, the number one killer of Illinoisans, at a special Go Red For Women event at the Illinois State Capitol on January 29. She is pictured here with State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (to Sen. Rezin’s right) and other event supporters.
Go Red For Women celebrates its 10th birthday this February. The movement focuses on educating women on the risk factors of heart disease, the warning signs of a heart attack and how to live a healthier lifestyle by exercising regularly and eating healthy. You can show your support for Go Red For Women by wearing red on February 7th, National Wear Red Day.
For more information on preventing heart disease, visit https://www.goredforwomen.org/, or visit www.heart.org/centralil.
Internet Betting on Horseracing
While in Springfield, lawmakers also approved legislation extending the sunset date for Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW). Under House Bill 11, persons can continue to place bets on horseracing over the Internet or telephone.
The person placing the bet must first deposit money in an account and then place wagers against the money held in the account. Winnings are also deposited into the account.
In addition, the legislation authorized six additional Off-Track Betting (OTB) licenses in the state, two each for three racetracks located in Cook County – Balmoral/Maywood, Hawthorne and Arlington.
Propane Gas Emergency
The severe cold weather and a resulting shortage of propane to heat homes in many areas of the state prompted State Sen. Sam McCann (R-Carlinville) to introduce Senate Bill 2757, which would take a number of steps to help alleviate the problem. He was quickly joined in the effort by a bipartisan contingent of Senators.
McCann had previously called on the Governor to issue a state of emergency, which the Governor did. However, the Governor’s declaration was very limited and did not take all available action.
The legislation would temporarily increase weight allowances on Illinois interstates to 100,000 pounds for vehicles carrying propane, which would reduce transportation costs and help increase the available propane supply in the state. It would also temporary increase the threshold for eligibility in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); add additional funds to the program; and establish a short-term loan program through the Illinois Finance Authority for small businesses, propane distributors, and farmers.