SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Chicago Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six years and a Springfield, Illinois native was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, but these memorable sports milestones were the only cause for celebration in Illinois this week, which yielded little progress on the Land of Lincoln’s budget gridlock, according to State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford).
The Illinois General Assembly met for a one-day session June 9, however, neither chamber addressed the state’s budget issues. Instead the Senate convened a Committee of the Whole focused on college affordability, while the House of Representatives discussed restructuring of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
In other news, on June 17 Illinois Auditor General Bill Holland announced his retirement; Illinois farmers continue to make progress on the state’s crops despite a series of torrential rains that have covered nearly every region; and a new report shows Illinois cities are losing population.
In caucus-related news, Republican lawmakers have been working in their district offices, conducting constituent meetings and holding legislative town hall events. Several bills are awaiting gubernatorial action.
Budget showdown enters third week
Though tens of thousands of people rallied behind the Chicago Blackhawks after their Stanley Cup championship win on June 15, Illinois’ 13 million citizens are probably not going to be throwing a championship-style parade for the two majority legislative leaders any time soon. The state’s fiscal year comes to an end in less than two weeks and lawmakers and the Governor are not any closer to a final solution to the Fiscal Year 2016 budget.
The impasse enters its third week and the Democrat majority leaders have yet to send most of their budget package to the Governor’s desk despite passing it nearly a month ago. However, Governor Bruce Rauner has indicated he will not sign the Democrat lawmakers’ budget, which even House Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton acknowledge is more than $3 billion unbalanced.
Senate Republican lawmakers, like their House counterparts, have continued a steady drumbeat in their quest for meaningful government reforms to help Illinois move beyond the past 12-plus years of one-party dysfunction. They have joined the Governor in consistently expressing a willingness to work together with their Democrat counterparts on the state’s budget, beginning with compromise on job-creating, economy-boosting reforms.
Committee of the Whole on higher education affordability
This week the Senate met for another “rare” Committee of the Whole to discuss higher education affordability.
Senators heard from a number of panelists in the areas of need-based aid, community college funding formulas, and state support of the university system. Republican lawmakers questioned the panelists on how much state tuition, fees and other associated costs had risen over the past decade. Senate Republicans asked witnesses for insight into how to reduce administrative and tuition costs within the state’s higher education system as a way to reduce the cost burden on students and parents in Illinois.
Senators will return to the Capitol on June 23 for what is expected to be another Committee of the Whole, this time on the topic of the minimum wage and sick leave policies.
Illinois losing population
Recent media reports have shown that Illinois is the only state in the Midwestern region that lost population from 2013 to 2014. The Land of Lincoln lost nearly 10,000 residents and an overwhelming number of communities are losing population at an alarming rate. Central and Southern Illinois continues to experience the largest losses, and even Chicago’s population has nearly stagnated for the past couple years.
Some suburban communities experienced population increases, but nothing approaching the Great Recession levels of pre-2008. In fact, only the communities of Naperville and Elgin saw meaningful growth. However, even with this growth the state’s overall population decreased overall, especially then coupled with the losses in Decatur and Rockford.
Bills heading to Governor
Several key pieces of legislation are heading to the Governor’s desk for his approval, as the unofficial bill signing season will be kicking off shortly.
Rauner will be considering Senator Syverson’s Senate Bill 1470, which helps small communities fill important municipal offices.
State Sen. Chapin Rose’s (R-Mahomet) Senate Bill 1298 which also awaits the Governor’s signature, is AARP-backed legislation meant to afford family health care providers better training to help care in-home for their loved ones.
To view more please visit www.ilga.gov and click the tab “Legislative Reports.”
Senator Syverson addresses members of the Genoa Chamber of Commerce at their June membership luncheon on June 18, 2015.