Springfield, IL – Senate Republicans remained at the negotiating table during the week, continuing their work to pass a long-term budget solution with necessary reforms, according to State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford).
Also during the week, an annual ceremony honored firefighters who gave their lives in the line of duty; students from across Illinois came to the Capitol to show lawmakers the educational importance of technology in the classroom, and Illinois tourism figures show robust growth in visitor spending in 2016.
In other action, Senate committees started reviewing legislation already passed by the House of Representatives. The Senate Republican Caucus Web site has more information about legislation passed during the week by committees and by the full Senate (http://senategop.state.il.us/About-the-Senate/Senate-Action).
Good-faith negotiations continue
Senate Republicans continue their good-faith negotiations, taking the time needed to hammer out the important details of passing a full-year, balanced budget with commonsense reforms that will put Illinois’ fiscal house in order and create a solid foundation for future budgeting and economic stability. Such reforms include a property tax freeze, spending reform and caps, and jobs creation.
However, Senate President John Cullerton called several legislative measures for a vote on May 10, over the objections of Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno who asked that discussions be allowed to continue toward the goal of reaching a compromise.
“Our talks are continuing. There are sincere good faith negotiations underway in the Senate on FY18 budget specifics and reforms critical to Illinois’ economy. Time is of the essence, but the devil is always in the details and the minutiae of complicated proposals. We are working through those now in an effort to advance the legislation as soon as possible,” Radogno said.
Senator Syverson noted that a workable solution needs to balance the budget, improve the jobs climate through business reforms, and stop the outmigration of people and employers from Illinois by advancing property tax relief.
“The first step in reaching a balanced budget is you must stop new spending until you can pay for the current spending. In the last 60 days, Democrats in the Senate have proposed $1.8 billion in new spending. Over $300 million of new spending was passed out of the Senate this week alone. Tough adult decisions have to be made, which include making cuts in spending and reforming programs. After those two difficult steps, we can look at raising revenue temporarily to close the gap until our economy grows strong enough. Cuts and reforms must take place first. The public will not buy another Pat Quinn ‘temporary increase to pay bills’ lie. Improving our jobs climate and growing high-paying jobs must be our continued focus. That is the only way we can grow our way out of our economic problems,” said Syverson.
Changing the short-term budgeting mindset
Throughout the budget reform process, Senate Republicans have held firm to the fact that the General Assembly must stop repeating the mistakes of the past. Senator Syverson said it makes no sense for Democrat leaders to keep passing the same types of budgets over and over again, and expecting different results.
As Senate Republicans and the Governor’s office try to work toward a budget agreement, it’s become clear that breaking through the culture of short-term planning and wasteful spending continues to be one of the greatest challenges. Lawmakers say they want a balanced budget, yet there is either a failure to understand the serious challenges facing this state, or there is simply an unwillingness to make the difficult decisions needed to put Illinois on the path to long-term stability.
Despite the increasingly bleak budget outlook and endless negotiations about spending cuts versus revenue increases, there have been a number of proposals introduced that spend even more money—in fact, it’s projected that almost $2 billion in new spending has been introduced in the Senate this spring.
For example, the Senate recently debated a proposal that not only would have forced Illinois taxpayers to pay for political campaigns, but would have cost taxpayers, minimally, $12 million each year, with the potential to reach $50 million annually. Fortunately, this measure failed to advance out of the Senate. However, this is an excellent example of the entrenched culture of waste and lost economic growth opportunities that have, sadly, become the norm in Springfield.
In the Senate, were are working on forward-looking, comprehensive, long-term solutions to the state’s budget impasse, as opposed to the House Democrats who put forth another stopgap budget based on the same tax-and-spend principles at the basis of Illinois fiscal mess.
Ceremony honors firefighters
On May 9, hundreds of firefighters from across the state gathered in Springfield to remember fallen firefighters who lost their lives to protect Illinoisans. The 24th Annual Illinois Fallen Firefighters Memorial and Fire Fighting Medal of Honor Awards Ceremony also honored individual firefighters for extraordinary acts of bravery and heroism to protect fellow firefighters and civilians.
Two firefighters who died in, or as a result of, the performance of duty were honored during the ceremonies as their families were presented with the Duty Death Gold Badge by Illinois State Fire Marshal Matthew Perez. Those recognized include Captain Eric Kohlbauer of Freeport Rural Fire Protection District, and Firefighter and Paramedic Kenneth Harris of Village of Oak Park Fire Department.
Twenty-four firefighters received the Firefighter Excellence Award for an act of service in the line of duty, demonstrating excellence and professionalism in service to the citizens of the state of Illinois.
Demonstration of school technology
Students from across Illinois came to Springfield May 9 to participate in TECH 2017, a demonstration of school technology.
TECH 2017 allows students to display their projects and show state leaders what skills will be needed for the Illinois work force and how technology can improve teaching and learning.
Since 1990, student and educators have convened at the Capitol building in Springfield to demonstrate ways they use technology to enhance learning and prepare themselves for success in today's digital world.
Illinois tourism growing
On May 8, Gov. Bruce Rauner kicked off National Travel and Tourism Week by releasing domestic Illinois tourism figures that show robust growth in visitor spending in 2016.
The Illinois Office of Tourism announced that in the first quarter of 2017, there has been a seven percent increase in tourism revenue in Chicago and a four percent revenue increase downstate. Visitors to Illinois invested $35 billion in the state's economy in 2016. In the last two years, Illinois has created 20,000 tourism-related jobs.
Illinois Legislative Shadow Day
On May 10, 60 youth in foster care, as well as alumni from such programs from across the state, were paired with members of the General Assembly, as part of Illinois Shadow Day 2017.
Throughout the day, youth learned firsthand how state government operates and what it takes to be a state legislator. The Illinois Legislative Shadow Day is modeled after the annual Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Experience held in Washington, D.C. each May.
The event was sponsored by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Foster Care Alumni of America – Illinois Chapter, the Illinois Statewide Youth Advisory Board and Be Strong Families as part of the observance of National Foster Care Month.