The House has passed 302 bills this year. Governor Rauner has thus far signed 267 while vetoing 21. He used his amendatory veto powers on another 10. An amendatory veto is when the governor sends the bill back to chamber from which it originated with a few recommended changes. That chamber can either accept the changes with a simple majority vote or attempt to override the veto which requires a 3/5ths vote.
This past week, instead of considering the governor’s proposed changes, the House voted on overrides to the governor’s amendatory vetoes. Only one override was successful, House Bill 1. Governor Rauner used his amendatory veto on the Medicaid funding portion in the bill, a comprehensive piece of legislation to address the state heroin crisis. The Governor’s office argued that the State’s Medicaid programs already cover multiple forms of medication necessary to treat alcohol and opioid dependence and the new changes in the proposed bill would limit the state’s ability to contain rising costs at a time when the State is facing unprecedented fiscal difficulties. Opponents of his amendatory veto said that the Governor’s changes hurt the overall bill and that the biggest issue with heroin addiction is that people can’t afford treatment. The House overwhelmingly voted to support the bill as it originally passed the chamber.
The override for the total veto of Senate Bill 1229 also came up for a vote last week. The governor vetoed this bill over serious reservations about potentially handing a significant portion of the budget over to an unelected arbitrator who wouldn’t be accountable to taxpayers. After a long, contentious debate on the floor (over 2 hours), ultimately the bill did not receive the necessary votes (3/5ths) to go in effect despite the governor’s veto.
A good sign that negotiations between AFSCME and Governor Rauner can move forward in good faith, the administration and the Teamsters announced a new 4 year contract. 4,600 State employees are covered by the new agreement and it included concessions from both sides. Key features of the new contract include a four-year wage freeze, maintenance of existing health care benefits, and a reduction in the number of unused vacation days that future new State hires in Teamster-organized work spaces will be allowed to carry over.
Many providers of mandated state financed services report that despite court order, they are not being paid. The Comptroller’s office has been struggling to make payments mandated by judges while balancing all of the state’s other obligatory payments (i.e debt/pensions). The Comptroller’s office has warned that due to the state’s cash flow problems, every day is an evaluation of which payments can be made based on the cash on hand and not all payments can be met on specific days.
As I mentioned in my last newsletter, through court orders and administrative actions, almost 90% of the budget has been decided on despite the legislature not having implemented a budget. Without legislative action we are on a dangerous trend towards needing more revenue. The Comptroller’s office estimates the state is operating around $300 million in deficit spending a month to meet its mandatory payments.
The state’s unpaid bill backlog currently sits at just under $5.3 billion dollars, the result of underfunding budgets and relying on borrowing. Illinois delays payments of bills from vendors, service providers, as well as money owed to local units of government and for employee health insurance to help it manage cash flow. The Governor and the Comptroller have both made pledges to pay it down, but in the absence of a budget and in light of both court orders and legislative decisions to fund the budget piece by piece, the office is struggling to manage the state’s bills as is.
Moody’s, the global bond rating service, in a report published last Monday warned of consequences if the budget stalemate is not resolved soon. Changes in the debt rating of Illinois affect interest rates that must be paid by Illinois taxpayers. Rating agencies such as Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch Ratings have given Illinois the lowest debt rating of any US state. The House again failed to take up the issue of the budget while in session last Tuesday and unfortunately, the House isn’t in session again until September 24th.
It’s an unprecedented and difficult time in Springfield right now. To help keep residents informed, I’ll be hosting a series of informal town halls in the coming weeks. These meet n’ greet style events will be held at pizza places throughout the district. As I am still fairly new to the job, it will be a way of introducing myself to residents. It will also provide a forum for people to talk about what is going on in the district and down in Springfield. I encourage you to come with questions, comments, or concerns and partake in one of these fun, relaxed, FREE events.
September 13th at Aurelio’s at 16529 W 159th St in Lockport
September 20th at Beggars Pizza at 9515 W 191st St. in Mokena
September 27th at Little Joe’s Pizza at 20805 South La Grange Rd in Frankfort
October 4th at Chicago Dough Company at 1080 E Lincoln Hwy in New Lenox