Yesterday afternoon, the General Assembly adjourned from the last regularly scheduled session day of the year. Per the Illinois Constitution, any bill, including the budget, passed after May 31 requires a super-majority vote to go in to effect immediately. Otherwise, legislation cannot be implemented until next summer.
Over the last week, the General Assembly passed 18 bills which together make up a spending package for all of state government for Fiscal Year 2016, which begins July 1. The spending adds up to a total of about $36 billion. Under our current state revenue structure, we’re expected to collect about $32 billion over the year, leaving a significant shortfall.
I voted against the budget bills presented in the House precisely because they do not add up. We can do better, and I am confident we will do better as this session goes into overtime. We will have time to set aside the distractions of other issues, work through our differences and find the right mix of revenue and spending cuts to develop a budget that meets the priorities of the citizens of the state of Illinois.
The spending package includes significant cuts, including $400 million in reductions for Medicaid, cuts in operations in every state agency except the Department of Corrections, and cuts to higher education of 6.5%. All of these cuts are in addition to 2.5% across the board cuts in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget.
We will be returning to Springfield later this week to continue working towards a mutually acceptable compromise. I remain committed to working with the governor and my colleagues in the legislature to develop a package of budget and structural reforms that builds on the progress we’ve made.
Looking back over this session, I am proud that several of my bills passed both chambers and will be sent to the governor. They range in topic from juvenile criminal justice reform, to election law, to streamlining business permitting.
SB1560 and HB3718 are two bills I am particularly excited about. The former addresses a number of issues within the state Department of Juvenile Justice and the latter restores judicial discretion to the process in which juveniles are charged with crimes. Together, they constitute the most significant criminal justice reform passed in Springfield this year. When implemented, they will help to right-size our juvenile corrections system and provide for better outcomes for youth charged with and convicted of crimes.
I am particularly proud of passing SB1265 through the House. This bill brings Illinois into compliance with federal laws governing special elections to Congress. It will help to ensure members of the armed forces serving overseas are given adequate time to participate in special elections.
SB1672 is a bill that established an independent process for the issuance of air quality permits in Illinois. Under current law, the state operates under federal guidelines. Developing our own system will allow for more expeditious delivery of permits. I was happy to help craft a compromise between the environmental and business communities to pass this bill.
Energy policy was the subject of a great many meetings and hearings throughout the session. Three different proposals have been introduced to set a course for our state’s energy future. None of the bills ultimately came for a vote in the House, but all have had significant evaluation. In the coming months, I expect negotiations to continue and ultimately result in a compromise bill incorporating elements of all three proposals.
Thank you for reading and giving me the opportunity to serve you in Springfield. This will be an active summer for the legislature. Please continue to share your thoughts and input with me. It is an honor to represent you.