Today, on the second day of Special Session in Springfield, lawmakers in the House did not spend their time discussing any of the budget bills that have been filed. Instead, time was spent voting on resolutions brought forward by various legislators, including HR 78, a measure that urges the U.S. Congress to continue funding Planned Parenthood.

During the floor debate on the resolution, State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) asked why, when Illinois has gone more than 700 days without a budget, the body is spending time voting on resolutions rather than working on a balanced budget. Click here to watch Rep. Breen’s floor comments on HR 78.
During the final week of the spring legislative session, State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) sat down with Paul Lisnek of Comcast Newsmakers to discuss the ongoing budget impasse in Springfield.

Click here to watch the interview.
Sometimes, the General Assembly doesn’t appear to make sense.

For three years running, more people have fled Illinois than any other state. Our tax burden on middle class families is today the highest of any state in the country, according to Wallethub.com. State government is spending $20 million per day more than the taxes coming in, and Illinois is now two years without a budget.

Legislators in other states would consider that an emergency, calling for serious sustained action. But not in the Illinois House, where the pace of work this term has been leisurely. During the five months of Spring Session, we had more than enough time to debate every single line item of the budget. We instead spent the time discussing issues like the improper labeling of catfish. And when the General Assembly’s Session concluded last week, House Speaker Mike Madigan sent members home without allowing debate or a vote on a single budget bill.

It was reported that, despite their large majority, Madigan and his House Democrats couldn’t agree among themselves how much more to spend on state government, or how large a tax increase to impose on Illinoisans. Madigan has made it clear he won’t talk with the House Republican leadership to forge a working majority for a compromise budget. Instead, we’re told that the Democrats will hold occasional hearings in Chicago in June, to give the appearance that they are working on a budget. And leading Democrats have repeatedly said there will be no budget as long as Bruce Rauner is governor.

This mess can be confusing to a person looking at it from the outside. Why would anyone want to prolong the broad suffering and national embarrassment of being the only state without a budget? There’s one key reason: Mike Madigan desperately wants to win the 2018 governor’s election.

You see, the consensus wisdom is that, if there’s no budget, then Bruce Rauner cannot win reelection in 2018. And that has two major implications: first, winning the governor’s mansion would give Democrats full control over all three branches of government, just as they had during the Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn administrations. That means full control of all legislation, of every executive appointment, and of thousands of jobs for your political workers. Second, a Democrat governor and Democrat General Assembly together means that Madigan would draw the legislative map in 2020, just as he did in 2010, essentially guaranteeing Democrat control of the Illinois General Assembly, until January 2033.

The 2010 Madigan map was ranked as one of the most gerrymandered and partisan maps in American history. In the years since, that map has provided the Democrats an unchallenged supermajority in the Illinois Senate and a sizeable majority in the House. Consider this: in 2014, the people of Illinois went 51% for the Republican candidate for governor and 46% for the Democrat, a margin of 5 percent. But because of the Madigan map, Democrats in that election took 20 percent more House seats than Republicans, 60%-40%, and 36 percent more Senate seats, 68%-32%. That’s not a recipe for good government, much less a functioning democracy.

I’ve started to ask whether House Democrats care that they risk turning Illinois into a “Mad Max” backdrop—because at this point, their only purpose appears to be ensuring that Mike Madigan stands triumphant over the barren wasteland at the end of the movie.

Illinois Debt Downgraded Again by Two of Three Major Credit Agencies
The downgrades imposed by Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, move Illinois to the brink of “junk bond” status. The rating status, which in Moody’s terminology is “Baa3” and in S&P’s wording is “BBB-“, comes with a “negative outlook,” a formal warning by both debt-rating firms that a further demotion of Illinois’ status to non-investment-grade is both possible and relatively imminent. The moves, announced on Thursday, June 1, followed the Democrat-controlled General Assembly’s failure to enact a FY18 budget by the May 31st deadline.

Should Illinois’ debt be demoted to below investment-grade status, the consequences would go beyond higher interest costs to Illinois taxpayers. Many segments of the investment industry, such as pension funds, are partially or totally barred from taking positions in non-investment-grade securities. The State of Illinois might find itself increasingly unable to sell debt at all, a fate which is already affecting the non-investment-grade bonds issued by Chicago Public Schools. Furthermore, economic experts warn that a further reduction in Illinois’ debt to below investment grade would serve as a signal to the global private sector that Illinois is diminishing its commitment to policies that make the State an acceptable place to invest money and create jobs.

Where's the Silver Lining?
As you know, I always like to give you a little nugget of positivity, despite the madness we're facing. Despite everything going on, there is still a core group of legislators who are dedicated to turning Illinois around. These are folks who put aside more lucrative pursuits to go to Springfield, because they deeply care about this state and want to see it brought back to life. We're working to put together an affordable realistic budget, and we're advancing measures to improve Illinois' jobs climate, so our state can again be a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family.
Our regular Spring Session ended on May 31, and House members were sent home without taking a vote on a single budget bill. In the past five months of Session, we had more than enough time to debate every single line item of the budget, but instead we’re wasting time on bills related to the appropriate naming of varieties of catfish (literally).

As Session was winding down, it was reported that House Democrats couldn’t agree on how large a tax increase to impose on Illinoisans, so they didn’t move any of their budget bills. Now, you’d figure that, if the majority party can’t get agreement on a plan among their own members, they would reach out to the minority party to try to negotiate a deal. But that hasn’t happened—they’ve refused to come to the table to craft a bipartisan budget.

You can’t have it both ways. Either you put together a Democratic majority supporting big tax increases and spending hikes, or you moderate and talk to the Republicans. There’s no other way. There are a number of Republicans who will work with Democrats on increasing income taxes and spending, in order to bring the impasse to an end. But they’re not just going to shovel more and more cash at the state government. These Republicans want to see things like a property tax freeze, multi-year spending cap, and other cost-saving reforms, both to give folks some relief and to ensure Illinois won’t be back in this same spot year-after-year.

We can and must “close the gap,” to achieve an affordable, realistic, balanced budget.

Breen Sends Ten Bills to Governor During 2017 Spring Session
In spite of the gridlock that remains on the bigger issues, there were plenty of opportunities for bipartisanship on individual member bills. This year I was successful in passing ten bills in both the House and Senate and those bills now await the signature of the Governor. My 2017 bills that will hopefully soon be signed into law include:
  • HB 2386: Allows craft brewing companies in Illinois to utilize new 360-lid technology.
  • HB 2423: Allow townships to save money by permitting the delivery of surplus wood chips generated through routine tree maintenance to residents.
  • HB 3084: Closes loophole to ensure those who cause death while driving drunk are punished as harshly as others who committed vehicular homicide if they are subsequently caught for driving on a suspended license.
  • HB 3514: would amend state law to end the practice of charging “expedited service fees” of $25, $50, or more on every electronic filing with the Secretary of State’s office.
  • SB 587: Reverses new Dep’t of Revenue ruling treating small religious retreat houses as “hotels,” charging them thousands of dollars under the Hotel Operators' Occupation Tax.
  • SB 1420: Exempts not-for profit recycling organizations from tedious paperwork and costly fees associated with operating collection centers for residential drop-off of used cooking oil and grease.
  • SB 2066: Requires reporting about the cost of state mandates on local governments. The bill applies to items listed in the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s (DECO) catalog of state mandates.
  • SB 707: Helps protect citizens by requiring that any data security breach of the state government impacting more than 250 Illinoisans be reported within 72 hours to the Department of Innovation and Technology and the Attorney General for investigation.
  • SB 1321: Ensures that definition of “child” is clear to avoid vagueness challenges to our criminal statutes protecting children against sex offenses of grooming and traveling to meet a child. 
  • SB 1422: Ensures that challenges to extensions of the statute of limitations are raised and ruled upon prior to full criminal jury trial, just like challenges to venue and other challenges to a charging document.
Breen Outspoken on Harmful Bills Pushed by House Democrats
This week, when we should have been working toward an agreed budget, Democrats continued to push bills that would have a negative effect on Illinois families and on state finances. On Monday, House Democrats approved SB 910, which would require “race-based” districting for county board districts. The House Democrat sponsor held up the State of Illinois' 2010 mapmaking process as a model for the bill. That 2010 process resulted in one of the most gerrymandered and partisan legislative maps in American history. During the floor debate, I argued strongly against race-based legislative maps at the county level, and urged that county boards should reject the type of gerrymandering performed by Illinois Democrats in the most recent state map. You can watch my full floor debate here.

Later that same day, House Democrats continued with their self-serving agenda by approving legislation that had nothing at all do with the advancement of a balanced budget, but would weaken Governor Bruce Rauner’s ability save taxpayers money through utilizing managed care systems for some recipients of Medicaid. During the House debate on SB 1446, I called the passage of the bill “petty partisan politics”. I reminded bill sponsor Greg Harris (D-Chicago) that since 1999, when the General Assembly approved a purchase of care option for certain Medicaid recipients, coordination of care has improved and costs for care have decreased. I also questioned the sponsor’s motive, saying, “It makes no sense for it (managed care) to be fine under Governor Quinn or Governor Blagojevich, and all of a sudden it’s no good because its Governor Rauner.” You can watch my full floor debate on SB 1446 here.

Third Annual Summer Reading Program Underway
This summer, my office is once again hosting a summer reading program for children in grades Pre-K-5 who live in the 48th District. Through our Summer Reading Safari program, those who achieve the summer reading goal of reading eight or more books will be invited to attend a fall reading celebration party where they will receive a certificate in recognition of their accomplishment and other treats. Brochures are available at my office at 929 S. Main Street, Suite 101-A, in Lombard, and at the following libraries:
  • Downers Grove: 1050 Curtiss Street, Downers Grove
  • Glen Ellyn: 400 Duane Street, Glen Ellyn
  • Wheaton: 225 N. Cross Street, Wheaton
  • Lombard’s Helen Plum Memorial Library: 110 W. Maple Street, Lombard
  • Lisle: 777 Front Street, Lisle
  • Oak Brook: 600 Oak Brook Road, Oak Brook
  • Villa Park: 305 S. Ardmore Avenue, Villa Park