SPRINGFIELD, IL – A “de-coupled Grand Bargain” was the focus of attention at the State Capitol this week, according to State Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg).
Despite the opposition of Fowler and his Senate Republican colleagues, the legislative majority shoved through their 15th consecutive unbalanced budget. The budget was predicated on $1.2 billion in savings through a potentially unconstitutional “pension reform” plan, which would likely diminish benefits guaranteed under the Illinois Constitution.
The Illinois Senate acted on eight pieces of the original legislative package intended to bring an end to the two-year budgetary impasse. Other components of the package included an expansion of gaming, a short-term property tax freeze, short-term borrowing without a guarantee of paying down the backlog of bills.
Senator Fowler was pleased by the gaming expansion which would call for a gaming license to be issued in unincorporated Williamson County. The gaming license would add economic opportunities in the 59th District, along with the expansion of positions at other already establish casinos and horseracing facilities.
A smaller component of the “Grand Bargain” focusing on procurement reforms passed the Senate will nearly unanimous approval. The revision of the government contracting process will be streamlined and enable universities and agencies to get “more bang for the buck,” enabling the cost of government to be slightly less.
The Senate Republicans were displeased by a bailout for the grossly mismanaged, fiscally strapped Chicago Public School (CPS) system. After many weeks of meaningful negotiations on a school funding reform package, the Senate sponsor of the legislation insisted that a $250 million in special deals be left in for the CPS. Additionally, Southern Illinois taxpayers would be left holding the bill for Chicago’s school pension system.
Senator Fowler hopes that both sides of the negotiating table will continue to work on talks that will settle the budget impasse. It is imperative that a balanced budget with significant reforms is passed by the scheduled adjournment on May 31 or the results could be catastrophic.