SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Bruce Rauner laid out his Fiscal Year 2019 budget plan this week to the General Assembly during his annual budget address. Most notably, the plan, presented in a joint session on Feb. 14, was balanced and included several cost-saving reforms.
Also during the week, the tragic shooting death of a Chicago Police Department (CPD) commander and the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, accompanied calls from some lawmakers to ban “bump stock” attachments on guns. Gov. 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 Feb. 13.
In other news, the voter registration deadline is approaching for the upcoming primary election.
Governor delivers annual budget address
Spending cuts, pension reform, and prioritizing education are a few items that make up the Governor’s balanced budget, which he presented to the General Assembly Feb. 14 during his annual budget address.
Calling on lawmakers to abandon the status quo of an unbalanced budget and overspending, the Governor offered a budget proposal that ensures spending does not exceed projected revenues, while holding the line on taxes. Senate Republican lawmakers said they were not only encouraged the Governor presented a balanced budget, but also emphasized the framework does not rely on a single tax increase.
Notably, the plan continues to increase funding for Illinois K-12 schools, which is a cause the Governor has pushed every year; the budget proposes $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 Illinois taxpayers.
Though Senator Syverson noted the Governor’s budget proposal is just the first step on the road to a fiscal year 2019 budget, he said it was a good working foundation for the General Assembly.
"Governor Rauner delivered exactly what he promised, a proposal for a truly balanced budget. The current spending plan, passed by the Democrats last year, left us more than a billion and a half dollars in the hole. I applaud the Governor for his work to reduce that deficit. Some tough choices will have to be made, but that is the reality of the budget process in a state that has been spending beyond its means for years,” said Senator Syverson.
“The Governor has continued his commitment to increasing funding for our struggling schools and he has proposed a realistic and much-needed capital proposal,” added Syverson. “If House Speaker Mike Madigan would allow us to move forward with a gaming expansion, we could reduce the proposed cuts and devote more to capital construction, while providing a stable future for cities like Rockford. I remain optimistic that bipartisan pressure will be strong enough that we are able to advance that proposal this spring."
With the Governor’s proposal in hand, the Legislature can now begin what Senate Republican lawmakers 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 Senate Republican lawmakers are sponsoring legislation that would make it illegal in the state of Illinois to sell, purchase or possess bump stocks—a device attachment for a semiautomatic rifle that allows it to fire faster, operating similarly to a fully automatic rifle.
The sale and usage 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, supports say the legislation does not limit gun owners, whose rights to common lawful trigger modifications would not be affected.
Senate Bill 2247 has not yet been given a public hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the bill has been assigned.
Flags lowered in honor of fallen Police Commander
Gov. Rauner has 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.
Commander Bauer was shot and killed Feb. 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.
Flags will be lowered at all state buildings from sunrise Feb. 15 until sunset Feb. 17.
Voter registration deadline approaching
Illinois residents looking to vote in the March 20 primary election need to be registered by Feb. 20, which is the end of the regular registration period. This deadline also applies to those people who need to change their names or addresses.
If residents miss the deadline, it’s not their last opportunity to register. Illinois now offers a grace period. Although the traditional voter registration period closes 28 days prior to the election, grace period registration extends that deadline up to Election Day. However, grace period registration is only available in-person at designated sites and requires individuals to vote at the same time they register.
The State Board of Elections encourages individuals to check with their local election authorities to determine locations and hours available for grace period registration/voting.
For more information on how to vote in the upcoming election, click here.