Though they still refuse to compromise on a complete budget, Senate Democrats pushed through yet another spending measure during the week, and overrode a gubernatorial veto of legislation that would implement mandatory arbitration to decide a negotiation stalemate between state employee unions and the Governor.
Also during the week, many social service providers breathed a sigh of relief when Governor Bruce Rauner signed bipartisan legislation authorizing $5 billion in federal funds to be appropriated to programs that assist crime victims, and provide assistance to citizens with disabilities, senior citizens, and women and children.
Deficit spending continues via piecemeal budget
Another spending measure was pushed through by Senate Democrats during the week in the absence of a state budget. The Monetary Award Program (MAP), which provides grants to low-income college students, would see funding of $373.3 million this fiscal year under Senate Bill 2043.
I support the Monetary Award Program, but in no way condone this haphazardly piecemeal approach to budgeting that only exacerbates the state’s deficit and completely frustrates our efforts to appropriately manage taxpayer dollars. Without a balanced, sustainable budget in place to fund core services, Illinois will run out of money and these critical programs won’t be funded—or taxpayers will once again be pushed to foot the bill for Democrat lawmakers’ out-of-control spending.
We must work together to reform state government, in order to place Illinois back on the path to fiscal solvency.
Governor signs legislation authorizing federal funds for social services
In the wake of the state’s budget impasse, the Governor signed legislation that will allow the state to distribute $5 billion in federal funds to critical social service 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.
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 was unable to cut checks to agencies for these programs without state appropriations authority. Senate Bill 2042 allows the Comptroller to spend those dollars and ensures the providers receive the federal funding.
House to decide outcome of controversial collective bargaining legislation
A controversial measure that would take away state government’s authority to negotiate employee union contracts and instead use a costly arbitration process, was once again advanced by the Senate during the week.
Senate Bill 1229 was initially passed May 31 over the objections of Republican lawmakers and Governor Rauner, who later vetoed the measure. The Senate overrode the Governor’s veto on August 19. The legislation now advances to the House of Representatives, where that chamber has 15 days to act.
Crafted by the state’s largest employee union, Senate Bill 1229 would temporarily require an unelected arbitrator to decide the outcome of contract disputes between the Governor and state employee unions. Critics argued the legislation takes away the Governor’s authority to negotiate taxpayer-paid, multi-billion-dollar labor agreements and places it in the hands of a third-party mediator. They also questioned the proposal’s constitutionality.
The Administration estimates the measure will cost taxpayers upward of $1.6 billion. Critics also questioned the interference with the collective bargaining process, blocking unions’ right to strike or government’s lockout authority. Governor Rauner has publicly announced he will not lock out employees.
New law enforces government transparency and accountability
Enforcing transparency and accountability in government meetings is the aim of a new law that give people more time to report a potential violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act.
Signed into law by Governor Rauner on August 19, House Bill 175 will give a person 60 days after discovering the violation to report it, as opposed to the prior requirement that requires a violation to be reported within 60 days from the date of the meeting.
The legislation was inspired by reports of a potentially illegal closed-door July 2013 meeting by the Oakwood Hills Village Board about a controversial proposal to construct a $450 million power plant in their town. The public had no knowledge of this meeting until nearly a year later when the gathering was discovered by an attorney hired by village residents who opposed the power plant project.
Other legislative action
Governor Rauner took action on a number of bills during the week. A complete list is available on the Senate Action page of the Senate Republican Caucus Web site.