is scheduled to reconvene August 4 for another session of wasting time in
Springfield as Illinois enters its second month of the new fiscal year without
a balanced state budget.
The battle, of course, is between
the reform principles set out by Governor Bruce Rauner versus the support House Speaker
Mike Madigan and his Democrat colleagues receive from the public sector unions
and the plaintiffs’ bar, who don’t like the proposed reforms.
One of the few things that may be
accomplished will be to reject a cost-of-living pay increase for Illinois
legislators. House Bill 576 was approved by the House of Representatives July
28, and is now pending in the Senate.
Tourism is on the rise in
Illinois, as the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of
Tourism reported 3.5 percent increase in 2014. With the annual Illinois State
Fair just weeks away, this increase in visitors could mean big crowds in
In other news, a
recently-released Department of Corrections’ quarterly report on the state’s
prison population revealed that though still overcrowded, the prison population
is the lowest it has been in almost five years.
Pay hike rejected
After extensive criticism from
Republican lawmakers and Governor Rauner, a two-percent pay hike for
lawmakers that took effect on July 1 was rejected in the House on July 28 by a
vote of 101-1. House Bill 576 will
likely be considered by the Senate when we reconvene on August 4.
Because of the way that state law
is written, legislators are automatically given a cost-of-living
adjustment—essentially a pay increase—each fiscal year. Though lawmakers
rejected these automatic pay increases in past years, the Democrat-controlled
Legislature failed to stop the automatic pay increase from taking effect in
Fiscal Year 2016.
In response, Senate Republican
lawmakers joined together to sponsor Senate Bill 1083, which removed the
cost-of-living adjustment; however, that bill was not called by Democrat
leadership for a vote in the Senate.
Republican legislators joined
Governor Rauner in criticizing the pay hikes, and called for Democrats to take
action on Republican legislation to eliminate the cost-of-living adjustment for
the next fiscal year.
The original salary increase
called for an additional $1,600 for cost-of-living expenses to be added to
legislators’ base salaries. If allowed to go into effect, the automatic pay
increase would cost the state approximately $283,200 per year.
Illinois sparks tourists’ interest
Illinois continues to welcome
growing tourist numbers and their economic benefits for the fourth straight
year in a row.
According to the Department of
Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Tourism, Illinois witnessed a 3.5
percent increase in visitors from 2013, hosting approximately 109.4 million
tourists in 2014.
These tourism figures and travel
expenditures have been linked to the generation of more than $36.3 billion for
the state’s economy, a total of $2.7 billion in state and local tax revenues
and the creation of 5,000 new jobs throughout Illinois.
State Fair set for August 13-23
Started originally as a showcase
of Illinois’ agricultural industry, the annual Illinois State Fair has evolved
throughout the years to include a variety of exhibits and activities.
Scheduled to run August 13-23, the
State Fair promises something for everyone to enjoy. From the iconic butter cow
to favorites like the high-dive show and the agriculture tent, the State Fair
has attractions for every taste and interest. For a full list of available
attractions, click here.
The State Fair is also host to a
number of entertainment options such as tractor pulls, horse racing, the
Twilight Parade and well-known performers in the Grandstand, including Sammy
Hagar, Rascal Flatts, The Fray and Austin Mahone. From 7:00 a.m. to midnight,
visitors are welcome to come out and enjoy some good food, fun rides and great
To read more about the daily
schedule and pricing discounts for groups such as veterans, senior citizens and
Family Day, click here.
Prison population lower, but still overcrowded
The Department of Corrections is
reporting its lowest inmate population in almost five years, yet facilities
remain overcrowded and population numbers continue to be a concern as state
resources are stretched.
According to the Department of Corrections’
quarterly report, Illinois’ prisons had 47,483 inmates in custody as of May.
Although a decline in population figures is promising, state prison facilities
are only designed to accommodate 32,000 prisoners.
To combat overcrowded prisons,
Governor Rauner issued an Executive Order in February creating a commission charged
with identifying ways to reform the criminal justice system of Illinois and
reduce the prison population. The commission’s goal is to have the prison
population drop by 25 percent over the next 10 years.
To read the full quarterly
report, visit the Department of Corrections’ Web site by clicking here.
Governor Rauner took action on a
number of bills during the week. A complete list is available on the SenateAction page of the Senate Republican Caucus Web site.