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Governor asks lawmakers to pass balanced budget and structural reforms

Praising current bipartisan efforts in the Senate, Governor Bruce Rauner asked all lawmakers February 15 to work with him to pass a balanced budget and structural reforms that will revitalize Illinois’ economy and grow jobs.

In other budget news, a St. Clair County judge ruled February 16 against Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s motion to dissolve the court order that mandated the state pay employees without an appropriation.

Also during the week, legislators and health advocates gathered in the Capitol to spread awareness of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women campaign.

Budget options

Governor Rauner outlined budget options to a joint session of legislators in the House of Representatives, during his third annual Budget Address February 15.

For two years, the Governor has asked lawmakers to work with him to fulfill a state constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget.  Yet his efforts have met with resistance and a lack of cooperation, much to the detriment of Illinois citizens.  Encouraged by budget talks in the Senate, he is once again asking lawmakers from both chambers, both parties, and all regions of Illinois to come together and resolve the fiscal impasse.

On February 16, a St. Clair Circuit Judge Robert LeChien ruled against a motion filed by the Attorney General to reverse his July 2015 order that said state workers had to be paid even with no budget in place.  Attorney General Madigan filed a motion Jan. 26 state court seeking to stop state worker pay until legislators and the Governor approve a spending plan.

Budget data show need to resolve impasse

I stand ready to work with the Governor and my fellow lawmakers to put aside the divisive rhetoric and make the kind of tough decisions necessary to pass a balanced budget and enact the critical reforms that will provide stability and growth to our state.

Recent budget data show the need to quickly resolve the impasse.

• Illinois goes $11 million further into debt each day state government continues to spend without a budget in place.

• It is estimated that under the status quo, with no spending or revenue changes, Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 spending is $5.3 billion out of balance and the state will end FY 2017 with an unpaid bill backlog of $13.5 billion.

• The state is projected to run annual budget deficits of $6 to $7 billion over the next five years without changes to the status quo – increasing the backlog of bills to $47 billion by the end of FY 2022, which, of course, is completely impossible.

• The State’s Group Health Insurance program has not received a General Funds appropriation in two years.  Providers are owed nearly $4 billion – delaying payments by two years.  If the impasse continues through FY 2018, the accrued interest in the program could surpass program liability.

• The Comptroller estimates the state will pay $700 million in interest payments on overdue bills in FY 2017 alone.

• Mandated Categoricals and Early Childhood Education programs have not received payments in FY 2017 due to the backlog of bills.

Interstate speed limit increase

I have introduced legislation, Senate Bill 2036, that would increase the speed limit to 75 miles per hour (mph) on Interstate Highways I 80 and south and I 355 and west.  Studies have shown that the safest speed limit is the one that 85% of drivers are following.  On the highways covered by this bill, that speed limit would be 75 mph.  Those already driving 75 mph or faster are not likely to change their speed, but those who are following the law and driving 70 mph would be able to lawfully drive 75 mph.  It is the variation in speed and the resulting weaving in and out of lanes that tend to cause accidents rather than the speed level itself.  This change, along with greater enforcement by state police of the law that requires vehicles to use the center lane only for passing, could help reduce accidents on Illinois roads.  The bill has bipartisan support and already has 15 co-sponsors.

Growing bio-based economy

Legislation has been introduced to grow Illinois’ bio-based economy, building upon the state’s strong agricultural base and seeking to provide new products and markets derived from grain commodities and their by-products.  Senate Bill 1656 provides incentives to Illinois businesses to produce and sell new renewable products made from biomass and other renewable sources.

The emergence of this technology represents an opportunity to reverse job losses in the chemicals and plastics sectors, increase energy security, replace fossil fuel-derived chemicals, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, maintain U.S leadership in clean energy and chemistry, and build domestic renewable chemicals and bio-based production facilities.  Iowa and Minnesota have already established these state incentives and legislation is pending in Congress to establish a similar credit at the federal level.

Fighting heart disease

Illinois legislators, representatives from the state Department of Public Health, and health advocates gathered in Capitol February 15 to spread awareness of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women campaign, and to encourage Illinois women to unite in the fight against heart disease and stroke.

Go Red For Women began in 2004 with the mission of educating women on their risk factors of heart disease and empowering them to take control of their heart health.  More than one in three women are living with some form of cardiovascular disease; it remains the number one killer of women.  More information about the Go Red For Women campaign is available at https://www.goredforwomen.org/.

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