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August 2008 Newsletter

Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Update

The good news is that we have a state budget for the current fiscal year that started on July 1, 2008.  The bad news is that neither the process nor the result was very pretty.

What follows is my take on the process.  You might get a different take from others.

Back in May, the Senate passed a balanced budget over to the House.  Their proposal included revenue enhancements and relied on a capital infrastructure program to relieve pressure on spending from our General Revenue Fund.

The House endorsed all the spending that the Senate authorized but failed to approve the capital plan and some of the additional revenue proposed by the Senate.  So when the budget went to the Governor, I believe it was out of balance.  Depending on who you believe, it was somewhere between $1.5 and $2.5 billion out of whack.

The Governor used his veto authority to cut back on the spending authorized by the General Assembly.  The biggest and most painful cuts were to social services (for the developmentally disabled, seniors, those with substance abuse problems, etc).  But, as you’ve read in the news, there are also deep cuts in other areas such as the Department of Natural Resources which runs our state parks.

The bottom line is that there is a budget for the State of Illinois but it has a pretty dramatic impact on a variety of programs for some of our most vulnerable citizens.

While our constitution requires a balanced budget, passing one is as much art as science.  Forecasting revenues is inexact and therefore, the Governor must always use the authority of the executive branch to balance revenues with expenditures as the fiscal year unfolds.  It is just that this year, the General Assembly (and the House in particular) handed him a larger than usual task.

If you or someone you know is impacted by the cuts, I would very much appreciate hearing your story.  It will help me talk about this issue with the Governor and House leadership.

ComEd Programs Designed to Help Constituents

I recently was notified of a few programs offered by ComEd to help those in need.  If you would like more specific information or have any questions, please contact my office.

The assistance programs they are offering include the following:

1)      Residential Special Hardship fund – provides one-time grants of up to $1000 for residential customers with household incomes up to 400% of poverty level ($82,000 for a family of four) who identify a hardship issue. To apply contact your local Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) administering agency.

2)      CHAMP (ComEd Helps Activated Military Personnel) – Assists members of the Military, National Guard and Reserve on active duty with managing their electric bills. Contact ComEd CARE at 888-806-2273.

3)      Power Up Fund – Provides grants of up to $400 for residential customers with household incomes up to 200% of poverty level who are not approved for LIHEAP. Helps families in need to prevent imminent disconnection or assist with the reconnection of electrical service. To apply contact your local LIHEAP administering agency.

4)      Summer Assistance Program – Provides bill credits of $30 for summer months, the equivalent of running a medium-size window air-conditioner for 600 hours or approximately 6 to 7 hours per day for the 3 summer months. All customers with household incomes of up to 200% of poverty level ($41,300 for a family of four) qualify. ComEd will automatically apply this credit to 2007 summer assistance recipients.  All other customers should apply at their local LIHEAP administering agency.

5)      All Electric Weatherization Assistance – Performs energy-saving improvements for space heating, LIHEAP approved residential customers. Customers should apply at their local LIHEAP administering agency.

6)      Small Business and Nonprofit Energy Assistance Programs – Provides a one-time variable grant up to $2500 for non-residential customers who use less than 400kW and demonstrate a special circumstance or hardship.  Program runs May 1 to October 1. For additional information call 773-269-4037.

Safe Rides Bill (Senate Bill 1930) Signed by Governor

I am proud to let you know that Senate Bill 1930 was signed by the Governor last week.  In May, Senator Jeff Schoenberg and I were able to pass the “Safe Rides” bill in the House and the Senate.

This bill creates an exception to the recently enacted teen driving curfew for the successful “Safe-Rides” program.  “Safe Rides” is for teenagers seeking alternative transportation home after curfew on weekend nights.  The “Safe Rides” Program began in 1981 when a group of concerned teenagers decided to do something to prevent the tragic loss of life brought on by teenagers drinking and driving. Nearly 200 student volunteers make up the crew, which has been operation for over 15 years and plays an integral part in the “Safe Rides” program in Northern Illinois.

Nekritz Nine at Nite Reminder

Just to remind everyone, my annual golf outing has been set for August 15 at 7:00p.m.  This year, all benefits will be donated to the Des Plaines Community Foundation to install KNOX-BOXES in the homes of seniors in Des Plaines.  These allow firefighters to gain quick access to a home or apartment without forced entry.  If you have not yet received an invitation or sponsorship information and are interested in attending or donating please contact my district office.


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