State lawmakers are set to return to the Capitol October 20, and it is my hope that Democrats will take this opportunity to work with Republicans and Governor Bruce Rauner to solve the state’s budget impasse, now in its fourth month, by accepting the commonsense reforms so necessary to improve the business climate in Illinois and prevent further job losses to surrounding states.
Even though Governor Rauner has reduced his reform request to just five commonsense reforms from about 20, House Speaker Michael Madigan has so far refused to compromise at all, putting those most in need of state services at increasing risk. It seems hard to believe that Speaker Madigan will continue to put his campaign cash interests (his big contributors oppose the reforms) ahead of the needs of the people of Illinois, but so far he has continued to do exactly that.
Republicans continue to call for fundamental reforms to state government in conjunction with a balanced budget plan that will help create jobs, boost Illinois’ economy, and right the state’s sinking fiscal ship.
Comptroller: State can’t make pension payment due to budget impasse
State Comptroller Leslie Munger announced during the week that based on expected revenues and mandated expenditures, the state will fall short of what it needs to make its pension payment next month.
The state’s monthly pension payment of $560 million is the largest consistent expenditure throughout the year. Because November’s full pension payment won’t be invested now due to a lack of funds, it could negatively impact the overall investment of the pension system, which could lead to future increases in state contributions. Comptroller Munger reiterated, however, that retirees will continue to receive their pension checks uninterrupted.
The Comptroller, like Republican Senators, have been warning that the legislative Democrats’ unbalanced spending approach is a recipe for disaster, resulting in cash shortages, more unpaid bills, and extended payment delays. She says that the state is required to pay at last year’s levels, even though the state is expected to bring in $5 billion less this fiscal year.
During the week, the backlog of unpaid bills reached $6.4 billion. Comptroller Munger says the state is on track to have $8.5 billion in unpaid bills by the end of the calendar year.
Free Medicare seminar set October 22
Representative Keith Wheeler of Oswego and I are teaming up with AARP to host a free Medicare Part D Seminar for local senior citizens at 10:00 a.m. October 22 at the City of Batavia building, 100 N. Island Ave. in Batavia.
AARP representatives will explain the finer points of this important coverage and answer questions like:
• What is Medicare Part D?
• Are there any plan options?
• What are the costs?
• How do I apply?
• How does the Part D or “Donut Hole” coverage work?
For more information, call my office at 630-800-1992 or Representative Wheeler’s office at 630-345-3464.
Illinois Lottery payouts over $600 now delayed due to state budget impasse
Illinois Lottery winners may be feeling not so lucky, with the Illinois Lottery announcing this week that winners over $600 will now have to wait to collect their cash until the state’s budget impasse is solved. Previously, delays in payouts were for winners of more than $25,000.
Due to the state budget crunch, the Illinois Lottery says its check writing account doesn’t have the money to pay winners over $600, and there is no authority to replenish it with funds right now.
Lottery players who win $600 or less can still receive their winnings by claiming the cash at any of the Lottery’s 8,000 retail locations throughout the state.
Governor Rauner calls Chicago state office building ‘ineffective,’ intends to sell it
Governor Rauner says taxpayers could save up to $12 million annually if the state sells the James R. Thompson Center (JRTC), a downtown Chicago office building that houses state government offices.
The 16-story building’s infrastructure has been deteriorating over the years and is costly to maintain. Rauner estimates there are more than $100 million in repairs that need to be made. The JRTC occupies almost three times the per-square-footage of office space as compared to the rest of downtown Chicago, and double what the rest of the state has for its employees working elsewhere. Such waste and inefficiency is the reason why the Governor wants to put the JRTC up for auction, explaining from a purely financial point of view that this is compelling for the people of the state and allows a developer to make more productive use of the space.
The building is no longer functional for state government, and the taxpayers need to come first. Selling the Thompson Center will allow the state to explore more options for managing employees in Chicago and the suburbs.
Governor Rauner says the goal is to sell the building in the next year, in which he says a new building could generate $20 million per year for Chicago and create thousands of construction jobs.
Report: Democrat insiders making big bucks off budget impasse
The lasting budget impasse, caused by legislative Democrats’ resistance to Republican-led reforms, is impacting Illinois in many ways: from social services to the business climate; to concern about state credit; to further blemishes on the state’s reputation.
But at least one group of Democrat insiders is cashing in. A report from the Chicago Sun Times shows a company called the Vender Assistance Program, owned by Brian Hynes (who once worked for House Speaker Madigan) and Patti Solis Doyle, has pocketed more than $22 million from the state thanks to a special agreement on the collection of late fees.
In short, when the state is late in paying a vendor by more than 90 days, it owes an interest rate of 1% per month on top of the owed amount.
The Vendor Assistance Program, started under former Governor Pat Quinn, uses financing agreements to pay the vendor 90% of their owed claim, as a “sale” of the unpaid bill. When the state makes good on that bill, the VAP gives the vendor the remaining 10 percent, and keeps the late fees for itself.
So far, the Vender Assistance Program has received $22.3 million in late fees, according to the report.