With only a few weeks left until some of the state’s spending authority runs out, Governor Bruce Rauner and the four legislative leaders continued to meet in Chicago to discuss a full-year budget plan accompanied by reforms; however, meetings have been put on hold while the Governor and Republican leaders await a budget proposal from Democrat leaders.
Also this week, Governor Rauner signed an energy bill that will keep two nuclear power plants open.
Leaders continue to meet over budget
After meeting last week, over the weekend and again into this week, the Governor and legislative leaders continued in vain to find common ground on a full-year budget framework with reforms. Unfortunately, the sense of urgency to find a solution to the state’s fiscal crisis was not shared by the Speaker of the House, who continued to engage in stall tactics, rather than engage in meaningful discussions.
Rather than continue down the path of political gamesmanship employed by the Speaker, the Governor has decided to not meet again until the Democrats produce a budget, which they’ve continually said they would do. We remain hopeful that budget discussions taking place between legislative chambers and the Governor continue, even if scheduled, formal meetings between the legislative leaders and the Governor are put on hold.
Republicans have stressed that incorporating structural reforms in the budget process would provide billions in savings, while at the same time helping to alleviate the exodus of jobs and people leaving Illinois. Without these reforms, the state will continue down the same destructive path it’s been on, which would be a disservice to Illinois residents.
The time to act is now. The people of Illinois are tired of the status quo and are demanding change. We are working to provide them with a new path forward, a path that leads to increased job opportunities, economic growth and fiscal stability in Illinois.
Governor signs energy bill
On December 7, Governor Rauner signed Senate Bill 2814, known as the Future Energy Jobs bill. Though proponents applauded the measure, saying it provides relief to thousands of employees in two Illinois communities home to the nuclear facilities that were slated for closure, critics panned the measure as a costly multi-billion dollar “nuclear bailout.”
Without the legislation, Exelon said it would be forced to shut down two of its facilities located in Clinton and Cordova. Proponents say the measure is a win for ratepayers and taxpayers, and most importantly will provide job security to those who live and work in those regions.
Senator Chapin Rose of Mahomet and Senator Neil Anderson of Rock Island both represent the Senate districts where the power facilities are located. They say without the Governor’s support of this legislation, their communities would have been devastated.
Senate Bill 2814 ensures the Clinton and Quad Cities power facilities remain open for another 10 years. The new law contains a guaranteed cap that energy prices cannot increase more than 25 cents on the average residential home, and cannot increase more than 1.3 percent on commercial and industrial users over the next 10 years. Additionally, the measure promotes wind and solar expansion and preserves zero-emission generation, maintaining Illinois’ status in leading the nation in zero-carbon generation.
However, passage of the new law was not without controversy. Opponents called the legislation a bailout, stressing that Exelon is a private business operating in a free-market and should be responsible for responding to budgetary restrictions without relying on intervention by the state. Furthermore, opponents noted it’s uncertain what the impact the proposal will have on Illinois employers, consumers and the state’s energy market.
According to the AARP, a staunch opponent, the new law will negatively impact consumer bills over the next quarter of a century and will have costly consequences down the road. The group predicted that the energy legislation will potentially cost Illinois approximately 44,000 jobs and result in cuts to low-income energy assistance programs. The AARP was joined by a number of other organizations in opposition to Senate Bill 2814, including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Coal Association and the Illinois Manufacturers Association.
Appointments made to the Illinois Bicentennial Commission
As Illinois celebrates its 198th birthday this month, Governor Rauner announced the appointments to the Illinois Bicentennial Commission, which is tasked with leading the planning and celebration of the state’s 200th anniversary in 2018.
On September 20, Governor Rauner signed Executive Order 2016-11 to establish a commission of no more than 51 voting members, which will be housed within the new Bicentennial Office under Executive Director Stuart Layne. The commission is made up of no more than 40 members appointed by the Governor and one member each appointed by the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, the Senate Minority Leader, the House Minority Leader, the Attorney General, the Lieutenant Governor, the Treasurer, the Comptroller, the Secretary of State, and the Mayors of Chicago and Springfield.
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno appointed Senator Pamela Althoff of McHenry to represent the Caucus.
The mission of the Bicentennial Celebration (Illinois 200) is to support, create and implement events and activities that celebrate all that is great in Illinois. The Bicentennial Celebration will also create statewide initiatives that foster innovation, promote education and provide greater opportunity for all across the state.