Governor Bruce Rauner presented a Fiscal Year 2019 budget plan to lawmakers during the week that is balanced and includes several cost-saving reforms.
Also during the week, the tragic shooting death of a Chicago Police Department (CPD) commander and the February 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, accompanied calls from some lawmakers to ban “bump stock” attachments on guns. Governor Rauner ordered flags to be lowered in remembrance of Commander Paul Bauer, the 31-year CPD veteran who was killed outside the Thompson Center on February 13.
Governor delivers annual budget address
Spending cuts, pension reform, and prioritizing education are a few items that make up the Governor’s balanced budget, presented to the General Assembly February 14 during his annual budget address. Calling on lawmakers to abandon the status quo of an unbalanced budget and overspending, the Governor offered a fiscal plan that ensures spending does not exceed projected revenues, while holding the line on taxes.
Notably, the plan continues to increase funding for Illinois K-12 schools, which is a cause the Governor has pushed every year: $350 million for the new school funding formula. The budget framework also dedicates resources to combat crime and the opioid crisis, directs $50 million for infrastructure improvements at the Quincy Veterans Home, and provides assistance for some of Illinois’ most vulnerable residents, while implementing reforms that would ease the financial burden on taxpayers, including requiring school districts and higher ed to begin to bear the costs of their pension obligations instead of being able to dump that obligation on the state. The Governor’s budget also would ask state workers to begin to bear more of their medical costs as has occurred in the private sector. Those provisions may be difficult for the Democrats to accept, but they are important.
Though the Governor’s budget proposal is just the first step on the road to a Fiscal Year 2019 budget, it is a good working foundation for the General Assembly. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will not be able to get behind all of the Governor’s proposals, but we should appreciate the tough decisions he made to ensure the budget process began with a balanced budget. With the Governor’s proposal in hand, the Legislature can now begin what we hope is a bipartisan process of negotiating and advancing a budget that will help stimulate the economy, grow jobs and continue providing record funding for education.
Republican lawmakers file ‘bump stock’ ban legislation
Several lawmakers are sponsoring legislation that would make it illegal in the state of Illinois to sell, purchase or possess bump stocks—an attachment for a semiautomatic rifle that allows it to fire faster, operating similarly to a fully automatic rifle. The sale and use of bump stocks have recently come under scrutiny after several of the attachments were found at the scene of the national tragedy in Las Vegas last October, which resulted in more than 50 fatalities and hundreds injured. Sponsors of Senate Bill 2247 say the bill gives consideration to both the safety of the public and the interests of gun owners. By targeting bump stocks, supporters say the legislation does not limit gun owners, whose rights to common lawful trigger modifications would not be affected. Senate Bill 2247 awaits a public hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It seems to make sense to me.
Flags lowered in honor of fallen Police Commander
Governor Rauner ordered all entities governed by the Illinois Flag Display Act to fly both the United States and Illinois state flags at half-staff in honor and remembrance of Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer. Flags were lowered at all state buildings from sunrise February 15 until sunset February 17.
Commander Bauer was shot and killed February 13 while confronting an armed suspect outside the James R. Thompson Center, a state government office building in downtown Chicago. Bauer was a 31-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department.