Legislative Update: June 2, 2016

The end of our regular session came and went on Tuesday with no agreement on a balanced budget. We remained on the floor of the House until midnight, hopeful that bipartisanship and reason would prevail, but as the night progressed, the only bills brought to us for votes were politically-motivated bills that mocked Republicans’ insistence that spending be limited to available revenues. 

Speaker Mike Madigan blocked a balanced education bill sponsored by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, which would fund our schools at 100% of the foundation level and ensure that school would start on time this fall. This refusal on the part of the Speaker was very telling, and illustrated very well that his concerns are purely political—and have nothing at all to do with the welfare of Illinois families.

Another politically-motivated bill that was heard in the House this week was SB 2604, which would create a requirement that every chamber of commerce with government members must include 2 union representatives on their boards of directors, even if the unions aren't members of the local chamber and even if they refuse to pay the same fee all the other chamber members pay. This is a blatant attack on the First Amendment, as it relates to the freedom of association. I was vocal in my opposition to the bill. You may watch my floor comments by clicking on the image above.

Since we've again been prevented from considering a balanced budget by Speaker Madigan, the House and Senate will now enter our second year of “continuing session,” which means we will return to Springfield regularly over the summer. I remain ready and willing to work toward a budget solution that is fair, funds vital services, and meets our constitutional requirement of being balanced. I urge all lawmakers from both parties to join me in working toward this goal.

Democrat Caucuses at Odds While Republicans in House and Senate Stand United
If there is a silver lining to come out of the chaos in Springfield, it is that Illinoisans are witnessing the continued crumbling of the walls of “Madiganistan.” While House and Senate Republicans stood united for balance and responsibility this week, Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton could not get their respective caucuses to support each other’s initiatives.

On Tuesday, our final day of regular session, the Senate rejected Madigan’s SB 2048, a budget bill that spent $40 billion, with only $33 billion in tax dollars expected to come in next year. One high ranking Senate Democrat was quoted as saying that, “I am not a fan of the (Madigan) budget. I think it’s a fantasy budget but the reality is that it really hurts people. There’s not the revenue to support it, and it delays us to getting to a real solution.”

Then, the House rejected a Cullerton bill to bail out Chicago schools and pensions. HB 2990 spends roughly $1 billion more than available funds, including at least $0.5 billion for Chicago schools and pensions. In spite of the fact that 60 House districts include all or portions of the City of Chicago, HB 2990 failed 27-92 in the House.

Governor Vows to Veto Bill to Increase Welfare Benefits by $700 Million
A few days after House Democrats voted in favor of a budget that was $7 billion out of balance, they OK’d a Democrat-sponsored bill that would allow people with higher incomes to receive TANF, one of the state’s welfare programs. The new standard would add roughly $700 million in new spending to the program, with no source of new tax revenue to pay for it. While SB 730 was approved in the House, it was one vote shy of the veto-proof majority needed to withstand the veto that Governor Rauner said is coming. One shocking element of the bill’s debate was that a fiscal note had been filed to get the exact cost of the measure—but the Democrat majority voted that the note should be held “inapplicable.” You see, when lawmakers place a fiscal note on a bill, the rules require that the bill’s progress be halted until a fiscal analysis is shared with legislators. These fiscal notes are important, as they outline the true fiscal impact of the bills before us. If I had to pick a theme for my first term in the Illinois House, this move highlighted it: the governing majority in the General Assembly thinks that costs of government programs are irrelevant and will continue to spend, presumably until reality catches up with them.

Breen Finishes Spring Session with Eight Approved Bills
In spite of gridlock at the top, individually I had great success this year with my own initiatives. Eight of my bills were approved in both chambers and are expected to be signed over the summer by Governor Rauner. I'll let you know as these become law.

Pension and Reform Working Groups to Continue Meeting Over the Summer
While regular session ended without a budget in place for Fiscal Year 2017, the bipartisan and bicameral budget and reform working groups will continue working throughout the summer. These groups made significant progress over the last month, and the rank and file lawmakers who serve on them have all expressed a desire to continue working on compromises that will ultimately bring us to a budget solution.

Sign Up for my Summer Reading Program!
Brochures announcing my Second Annual Summer Reading Program for children in grades pre-K-5 were recently mailed to families in the 48th House District. Reading is a wonderful way to keep minds sharp during the summer months, and it offers people an opportunity to go on amazing adventures without ever leaving home. Participation is free, and those who reach the goal of reading eight or more books this summer will be invited to a reading celebration party in the fall. Please sign up today by clicking on the “Summer Reading Safari” icon on my website at reppeterbreen.org.