The Senate reconvened in Springfield August 4, approving one proposal to block cost-of-living increases for state lawmakers and advancing another measure that would ensure many human services providers continue to receive the federal funding they rely on to keep services going while the state budget impasse continues.
Senate appropriates federal funds
As the state budget gridlock continues into its second month, the Senate authorized the appropriation of nearly $5 billion in federal funds to programs that provide meals for senior citizens and supplemental nutrition programs for women and children, help crime victims, and provide community and rehabilitation services for individuals with disabilities, among others.
The state is responsible for administering many programs mandated or funded by the federal government. Although funding for these programs has been approved at the federal level, the Comptroller is unable to cut checks to agencies for these programs without appropriations authority. Many social service agencies have said they will be forced to cut services or eliminate programs without these federal funds.
Senate Bill 2042 would allow the Comptroller to spend those dollars and ensure the providers receive the federal funding they rely on. Having been approved by the Senate, the measure now advances to the House for consideration. If approved in the House, the legislation would move to the Governor’s desk; a spokesman for the Rauner Administration recently said the Governor supports the measure.
Senate blocks COLAs for lawmakers
Also during the week, the Senate joined the House in overwhelmingly rejecting a two percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for state lawmakers during the current fiscal year.
Due to the way state law is written, the General Assembly receives an automatic COLA each year, unless the members vote to deny it. While these automatic pay bumps had been rejected over the last six years, this year the Democrat-controlled legislature allowed the automatic pay increase to take effect.
House Bill 576 eliminates all Fiscal Year 2016 pay raises for members of the General Assembly, state’s attorneys, elected constitutional officers, agency directors, and other state officials whose pay is set by the Compensation Review Board. The measure also freezes per diem and mileage reimbursements rates for lawmakers at their current level.
Legislative Republicans and the Governor had repeatedly called for the COLAs to be removed, citing the state’s serious fiscal woes—a problem exacerbated by the lack of a Fiscal Year 2016 budget plan.
Job loss underscores need for reform
For months, House Speaker Michael Madigan has repeatedly claimed that the “number-one problem facing Illinois is the budget deficit.” But the rest of Illinois – outside of state government – is suffering as well after 12 years of Democrat control. New figures in the past month show an economy struggling to get back on its feet, even as Democrats in the Legislature fight tooth-and-nail against pro-jobs reforms.
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois has lost 7,300 manufacturing jobs so far this year, compared to gains in competing Midwestern states Indiana (+6,700 jobs) and Michigan (+12,800).
The most recent month also showed an overall jobs decline of 7,500 jobs statewide, according to the Illinois Department of Economic Security (IDES), with job growth “still slow downstate.” According to IDES Director Jeff Mays, “the need for a full statewide recovery remains.” That statewide loss was the biggest month-to-month loss of any state in the country.
And according to the state’s economic experts, the nonpartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, Illinois’ labor force, total exports, and new car/truck registrations are all down from a year ago.
Bills signed into law
Governor Bruce Rauner also signed a number of bills, including legislation to protect Illinois students, give terminally-ill patients access to potentially life-saving treatments, and institute more frequent reviews of the state’s retirement systems.
A complete list is available on the Senate Action page of the Senate Republican Caucus Web site.