Legislative Update: June 16, 2016

At midnight on our regular adjournment date of May 31, lawmakers in the House of Representatives were told to keep our Wednesdays open for overtime session in Springfield. Since that announcement, Speaker Madigan has cancelled our first two overtime session dates, June 8 and June 15. The Speaker, who had spent weeks calling the budget and reform working groups “unpersuasive,” has done an about face and is now claiming that the working groups are making progress and need to continue their work uninterrupted.

The purpose of these groups is to reach compromise on a balanced budget deal that funds vital services, while also agreeing to reform initiatives that will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse that plagues Illinois government and will improve the jobs climate and economy. I hope a comprehensive budget bill is forthcoming that accomplishes all of these goals.

Breen Joins Governor Rauner in Demanding Approval of Balanced Emergency Budget
On Tuesday I attended the annual meeting of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce in Chicago, where business awards were given in recognition of outstanding development projects that were completed during the year.

After the luncheon, I was proud to stand with Governor Rauner, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, and other members of the House and Senate Republican caucuses in demanding the consideration of a balanced emergency budget that will allow schools to open on time in the fall and allow critical services to continue running while we work toward needed reforms in Illinois. The reason for these bills is that Democrat leaders have told us that they refuse to take any votes on substantive reform measures until after the November election. It’s shameful, and the people of Illinois deserve better.

Speaker Mike Madigan has refused an up-or-down vote on HB 6583 (school funding for FY17) and HB 6585 (emergency funding for agencies and services). Both of these bills are balanced and will not increase Illinois’ debt load. Speaker Madigan’s decision to block these two measures from being heard is a purely political stunt, and it shows clearly that Madigan is more interested in politics than good, responsible policy.

Numbers Don’t Lie: Democrats Continue to Ignore Funding for Education and Vital Human Service Programs
For years, Democrats in Springfield have clamored for more taxes, to support higher spending for those who utilize government services. They claim Illinoisans aren’t taxed enough. I couldn’t disagree more. I believe money is not being spent wisely and that lawmakers have their priorities wrong.

I read a very enlightening article the other day that I would like to share, called “Why Illinois Shortchanges People Dependent on Government Services.” It was written by Ted Dabrowski, a budget and tax expert from the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI), a non-profit think tank based in Chicago. IPI supports limited government and free-market principles.

At its core, this article makes a convincing argument that Illinois has had more than enough revenue coming in over the years to support operations and social service programs. A clear case is made that over the last 30 years, unrealistic promises made to state government workers has led to skewed budget priorities and less available money for state programs for Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens. The writer is correct in pointing out that the one constant during this timeframe is House Speaker Mike Madigan. According to the article, since 1983, when Madigan took the reigns as House Speaker, state per capita revenues have grown at a rate that is more than double the rate of inflation. So why is Illinois broke? Why are Democrats insisting that a tax hike is the only solution to our budget problems? The problem stems from misplaced priorities.

During the Madigan era:
  • Spending on state worker pensions increased 586% as compared to a 10% increase in human services funding
  • Spending on state worker insurance increased 166% while funding for higher education during the same timeframe was cut by 8%.
The article states that state worker retirement benefits have grown 900% since 1987, or an average of 9% per year. Those numbers just aren’t seen in the private sector.
A key responsibility of state government is to provide bridge programs to disadvantaged and disabled citizens. But in Illinois, we’ve failed in that responsibility while spending more and more on unsustainable state government worker benefits. We should instead aim to properly and fairly compensate our state workers, without hurting our young people and the most vulnerable among us. 

Please take a moment and read the IPI article. You may access the article by clicking here.

Breen’s Summer Reading Safari Program in Full Swing
There’s still time to enroll in my summer reading program for 2016. Children from pre-K through 5th grade who live in District 48 are encouraged to participate. Those who achieve the summer reading goal of reading eight or more books by Friday, August 19 will be invited to attend a fall reading celebration party. To sign up, click on the Summer Reading Safari icon at reppeterbreen.org. District 48 encompasses all or part of the following municipalities: Downers Grove, Glen Ellyn, Lisle, Lombard, Oakbrook, Oakbrook Terrace, Villa Park and Wheaton. Information about the program was mailed to District 48 households, but additional brochures are available at my office at 929 S. Main Street, Suite 101-A, in Lombard, and at local libraries.