Senate Week in Review: May 8-12, 2017

Senate Republicans remained at the negotiating table during the week, continuing their work to pass a long-term budget solution with necessary reforms.

Also during the week, students from across Illinois came to the Capitol to show lawmakers the educational importance of technology in the classroom, and Illinois tourism figures show robust growth in visitor spending in 2016.

In other action, Senate committees started reviewing legislation already passed by the House of Representatives.  The Senate Republican Caucus Web site has more information about legislation passed during the week by committees and by the full Senate.

Good-faith negotiations continue

Senate Republicans continue their good-faith negotiations, taking the time needed to hammer out the important details of passing a full-year, balanced budget with commonsense reforms that will put Illinois’ fiscal house in order and create a solid foundation for future budgeting and economic stability.

However, Senate President John Cullerton called several legislative measures for a vote on May 10, over the objections of Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno who asked that discussions be allowed to continue toward the goal of reaching a compromise.  I believe the two bills were good bills and I voted for both.  The bills are similar but one would only become effective if the rest of the “grand compromise” bills all passed.

A workable solution needs to balance the budget, improve the jobs climate through business reforms, and stop the outmigration of people and employers from Illinois by advancing property tax relief.

Changing the short-term budgeting mindset

Throughout the budget reform process, Senate Republicans have held firm to the fact that the General Assembly must stop repeating the mistakes of the past.  It makes no sense for Democrat leaders to keep passing the same types of budgets over and over again, and expecting different results.

As Senate Republicans and the Governor’s office try to work toward a budget agreement, it’s become clear that breaking through the culture of short-term planning and wasteful spending continues to be one of the greatest challenges.  Lawmakers say they want a balanced budget, yet there is either a failure to understand the serious challenges facing this state, or there is simply an unwillingness to make the difficult decisions needed to put Illinois on the path to long-term stability.

Despite the increasingly bleak budget outlook and endless negotiations about spending cuts versus revenue increases, there have been a number of proposals introduced that spend even more money—in fact, it’s projected that almost $2 billion in new spending has been introduced in the Senate this spring.

For example, the Senate recently debated a proposal that not only would have forced Illinois taxpayers to pay for political campaigns, but would have cost taxpayers, minimally, $12 million each year, with the potential to reach $50 million annually.  Fortunately, this measure failed to advance out of the Senate. However, this is an excellent example of the entrenched culture of waste and lost economic growth opportunities that have, sadly, become the norm in Springfield.

In the Senate, we are working on forward-looking, comprehensive, long-term solutions to the state’s budget impasse, as opposed to the House Democrats who put forth another stopgap budget based on the same tax-and-spend principles at the base of Illinois’ fiscal mess.

Demonstration of school technology

Students from across Illinois came to Springfield May 9 to participate in TECH 2017, a demonstration of school technology.  TECH 2017 allows students to display their projects and show state leaders what skills will be needed for the Illinois work force and how technology can improve teaching and learning.  Since 1990, student and educators have convened at the Capitol building in Springfield to demonstrate ways they use technology to enhance learning and prepare themselves for success in today’s digital world.

Illinois tourism growing

On May 8, Governor Bruce Rauner kicked off National Travel and Tourism Week by releasing domestic Illinois tourism figures that show robust growth in visitor spending in 2016.  The Illinois Office of Tourism announced that in the first quarter of 2017, there has been a seven percent increase in tourism revenue in Chicago and a four percent revenue increase downstate.  Visitors to Illinois invested $35 billion in the state’s economy in 2016. In the last two years, Illinois has created 20,000 tourism-related jobs.

Illinois Legislative Shadow Day

On May 10, 60 youth in foster care, as well as alumni from such programs from across the state, were paired with members of the General Assembly, as part of Illinois Shadow Day 2017.  Throughout the day, youth learned firsthand how state government operates and what it takes to be a state legislator. The Illinois Legislative Shadow Day is modeled after the annual Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Experience held in Washington, D.C. each May.  The event was sponsored by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Foster Care Alumni of America – Illinois Chapter, the Illinois Statewide Youth Advisory Board and Be Strong Families as part of the observance of National Foster Care Month.

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