Legislative Update: March 11, 2016

We’re just over half way through this term of the Illinois House, and all eyes are on the primary election coming up next week. Our state is still no closer to a budget. Instead, we’re taking vote after vote on measures designed by Speaker Michael Madigan to secure advantage for himself and his allies in the election this Tuesday.

In this tumultuous time for our state and country, we have to keep speaking the truth and shining a bright light on corruption and corrupt practices.

Democrats Reject Republican Attempt to Continue Working on Budget, Adjourn until April 4
On Thursday of last week, House Democrats refused Republican attempts to stay in session to work on a budget, instead adjourning the chamber until April. As business was concluding Thursday afternoon, Republicans made a motion to reconvene the next day, on Friday, so that the House could continue work on the critical issues facing the state. After several minutes of huddling, House Democrats then ruled the motion “out of order” and headed to their cars for a five week break.

We were ready to keep working, but Speaker Mike Madigan and his majority caucus forced us into this 5-week break. The people of Illinois deserve a balanced budget, honest government, and the responsible reforms necessary to return our state to economic vibrancy. It’s time to stop the games and get the job done.

Click here to watch the video of the Republican request and Democrat response. If you would like to weigh in on the issue after reading the information, please use this link to take a single-question survey. Speaker Madigan has determined that the House will return to session in Springfield on April 4.

House Democrats Advance Budget-Busting Spending Plan
Last week, House Democrats advanced yet another set of budget-busting spending bills, seeking to spend $3.7 billion on a variety of hot-button items, while only providing $454 million in revenue to pay for them. The Democrat bills were introduced and brought to the floor for votes in less than 24 hours, without any attempt at input from House Republicans or the Governor.

The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) indicated that these Democrat bills, House Bill 2990 and House Bill 648, would blow another hole in our state’s unbalanced budget: that means lots more money promised without any way to pay the tab. Even now, the Comptroller’s Office currently reports a backlog of unpaid bills totaling $7.2 billion, with almost 50,000 unpaid vouchers on hand.

House Committee Considers Pension Proposals
With Illinois facing increasing challenges to fund existing defined-benefit pension commitments, some of us in the House are trying to find places where we can compromise to solve our pension crisis, where unfunded pension liabilities top $110 billion.

I’ve cosponsored HB 4427, which would give vested pensioners a buyout option (into an IRA) of 75% of the estimated value of their payments. Many private pension plans have a similar provision, and this option would reduce state taxpayers’ long-term liability by 25%. The measure would also meet the constraints of the Illinois Constitution, which prohibits reduction of pension benefits. Some estimate savings of $1 billion or more per year in annual pension payments by giving pensioners an option.

Breen Challenges Democrat Representative on Lack of Accountability in Levy Mandate Bill
Last Wednesday, I led an effort on the Illinois House Floor to defeat a measure that would force Illinois residents to pay municipal property taxes, even if their municipality does not adopt a tax levy. After a spirited debate, bill sponsor Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights) withdrew HB 4434, recognizing that it did not have adequate support to pass.

During the debate I specifically identified oversight provisions lacking in the bill, stating that, “This is a bill that reduces responsibility, it reduces transparency, it risks corruption, it hurts the taxpayers.” You can watch my floor debate by clicking on the image.

DuPage County Acclaimed as Great Place to Get Start in Life
American City and County magazine named Illinois’ DuPage County as the No. 1 county in the U.S. as a home base that offers children and young adults a statistical chance to enjoy upward mobility. The findings, based upon statistics gathered by the Equality of Opportunity project operated by social economists from Harvard University, showed that children from low-income families who grow up in DuPage County are likely to earn 15.2% more than children from similar socioeconomic backgrounds who grow up in similar families elsewhere.