Legislative Update: October 26, 2015

The Illinois House and Senate met in fall session on Tuesday, October 20, but once again the majority caucus in both chambers did not allow substantive action on the general funds portion of the FY16 budget. Instead of working on a balanced budget with necessary reforms, House Speaker Michael Madigan, once again, held a Committee of the Whole to discuss the negative consequences from there being no state budget. In the end, the majority offered only a piecemeal approach to funding certain programs. In order to turn Illinois around, we need a balanced budget with key reforms that will empower our state and local units of government to more effectively and efficiently spend our tax dollars. These reforms have been offered, but the majority has not seriously addressed them in the overall solution to the budget impasse. The next General Assembly session day is scheduled for Tuesday, November 10.

Rep. Breen Speaks with Students, Seniors and Scouts
Last week, I spoke with three different groups in the 48th District, discussing a wide range of topics. First, I addressed 150 social studies students from Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn, where a group of very engaged students stayed late on an early dismissal day to learn how their government works at the state level. We discussed topics from how I became a state representative to the budget impasse and the pension crisis. I let these young men and women know that while I am frustrated with the current happenings in the state capitol, I remain optimistic that fundamental reforms are coming soon that will put our great state onto a better economic path. I also told them how my education in electrical engineering and law was integral to my preparation for public service in the Illinois General Assembly.

Second, I stopped by the Brookdale Senior Center in Glen Ellyn to talk with the residents about the stalemate in Springfield and how the pension obligation is preventing Illinois from being able to adequately fund other areas of the budget.

Lastly, Boy Scouts Troop 51 in Lombard invited me to help the Scouts earn the Citizenship in the Community merit badge and an additional requirement for the boys’ advancement to their Boy Scout First Class rank. I was honored to facilitate the oral report process for such an impressive group of young mn. As an Eagle Scout myself, I truly appreciate the work these boys are doing and recognize how scouting prepares them for a successful adult life.

Rep. Breen Partners with Sen. Nybo and Local Groups for Drive to Benefit Overseas Troops
I’m pleased to be partnering with Senator Chris Nybo, the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the local Lilac Post 5815 for a “Support Our Troops” Collection Drive for Christmas this year. The tradition of sending care packages to our service men and women who are serving overseas is a simple way that we can express our thanks for their sacrifices on behalf of our country. Together, in this local effort, we can let them know of our deep appreciation for them and their dedication to protecting our freedoms.

The legislative office that Sen. Nybo and I share will serve as a drop-off location for items to be collected. Donations will be accepted from October 26 through November 13 during our normal business hours of 9:00 AM until 3:30 PM, Monday through Friday. Our office is located at 929 S. Main Street, Suite 105A in Lombard. We would also like to send care packages specifically to local soldiers from the area (IL Senate District 24 or IL House District 48). If you know of a local friend, family member or loved one who is currently serving in the military and is deployed overseas, please contact my office at (630) 403-8135 and provide the service member’s name and address.

Recommended items to be included in the care packages include:
  • Books, magazines, crossword and word search puzzles, coloring books, colored pencils, dominoes, checkers or chess games 
  • iTunes Gift Cards, headphones/ear buds, DVD movies or television shows, small video games, international calling cards 
  • Baby wipes, deodorant, Kleenex, lotion, toothpaste/toothbrush, shampoo, soap, female hygiene items, shaving cream, razors 
  • Beef jerky, powdered drink mix, coffee, granola or protein bars, trail mix, dry snacks, mixed nuts 
  • Laundry detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets, air fresheners 
  • Footballs, basketballs, soccer balls and frisbees 
Because the items will be mailed, aerosol cans/containers, food items that could melt or spoil and fragile items cannot be accepted. I hope you’ll help us make this event a successful one.

Rauner Administration Reaches Agreements with Trade Unions
After several months of good faith negotiations, Governor Bruce Rauner agreed to terms on new four-year collective bargaining agreements with the International Union of Operating Engineers, the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry, and the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers. The last set of agreements expired June 30, 2015.

The new contracts cover workers at the Departments of Agriculture, Central Management Services, Corrections, Historic Preservation, Human Services, Juvenile Justice, Military Affairs, Transportation, Veterans’ Affairs, and the Illinois State Police. The employees are all professional tradesmen and women who work as stationary engineers and plant operators, plumbers and steamfitters, and machinists.

The tentative agreements are being submitted to the membership of the trade unions for a ratification vote. The terms of the tentative agreements are confidential until the end of the ratification process.

As a continuation of the productive negotiating sessions, the trade unions and the Governor’s Office also pledged to form a long-term relationship to improve employer-labor relations in state government.

Fitch, Moody’s Downgrade Illinois
Fitch Ratings, whose credit ratings are closely watched by Wall Street and the global investment community, reduced Illinois’ “general obligation” (GO) bond rating from single-A-minus, the former ranking, to one notch closer to junk-bond status on Monday, October 19. The new BBB+ rating is only two notches above the lowest investment-grade rating (BBB-) and is three notches above BB+, which signals non-investment-grade (“junk bond”) status. Illinois’ GO bond rating is the lowest among the 50 states.

Following Fitch’s downgrade, Moody’s Investor Services downgraded its ratings on Illinois bonds. Thursday, Moody’s downgraded Illinois outstanding $27 billion of GO bonds to Baa1 from A3, while also lowering ratings on the state’s sales-tax (Build Illinois) bonds to Baa1 from A3, and on the state’s subject to appropriation bonds to Baa2 from Baa1. The outlook for all of these obligations remains negative.

As your voice in Springfield, I’m working to make our state and our communities the best they can be. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact my district office at (630) 403-8135 or visit reppeterbreen.org.