A press release from State Senator Pam Althoff:
Senate Week in Review: January 27-31, 2014
As anticipated, Gov. Pat Quinn’s annual State of the State address was long on promises, but short on details.
And while State Sen. Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry) said recent progress is encouraging, Illinois still faces serious challenges and a grim financial outlook that the Governor ignored during his Jan. 29 speech to a joint session of the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives.
Governor Quinn mentioned repeatedly in his address that Illinois is making a comeback. Althoff said that while the state has made some great strides, there is still a long way to go.
“Yes, Illinois has made some significant strides in recent years, but now isn’t the time to spend more with new programs,” she said.
“Nor is it the time to let meaningful reforms slide and fall through the cracks, as we’ve recently seen with the Medicaid reforms we passed in 2012.
“Original savings that were projected to be $1.6 billion have now been reduced to $1.2 billion.
“Furthermore, the third party company Maximus, which was hired by the state to find Medicaid enrollees that should not be in the system, was fired in order appease the state’s largest public employee union.
“Before the company was fired, they had only gone through a small fraction of the Medicaid enrollees and saved taxpayers over $44 million.
“Now, the state will be forced to hire more state workers and spend millions more.
“These are the areas that should have remained as a focus of cost efficiency.”
While the Governor touted a modest decrease in the state’s backlog of unpaid bills, he skipped over projections from his own budget office that show the backlog will balloon to $16 billion in three years.
Althoff said the lack of details left lawmakers anxious to see Quinn’s budget plan, which he is scheduled to unveil later in February.
Governor Wants More Spending
With the Democrat’s 67% income tax hike set for a major rollback next January, Quinn’s budget plan must explain how he plans to reconcile the tax reduction with the laundry list of spending increases he outlined in his State of the State speech.
The Governor called for
- increasing the state’s earned income tax credit on personal income taxes
- cutting business filing fees
- doubling state-paid college scholarships
- spending more on early childhood education
The Quinn Administration’s previously released three-year budget plan also projected significant new spending without revenues to support the expenditures.
The Governor also called for increasing the state’s minimum wage and requiring employers to offer paid sick leave to workers.
While those proposals are well-intentioned, critics noted they could have unintended consequences as businesses eliminate jobs or reduce worker hours to make up for the added expenses.
“His speech was contradictory,” Althoff said.
“He wants to raise the minimum wage, believing it will improve the job climate, but it will only hurt businesses in the process.
“Illinois will remain last on national lists with policies like that enacted.”
Republican lawmakers argue that improving the economy, reducing Illinois’ high unemployment rate and fostering growth in jobs that pay more than the minimum wage offer low-income workers a better path to the middle class.
Overall, Althoff said Governor Quinn’s speech lacked the substance and ideas required to get Illinois working again.
“I would have liked to see Governor Quinn outline how to improve Illinois’ job and business climate and how we are going to improve our fiscal management, not just say that the state will be better in five years,” Althoff said.
“I’m willing to buckle down and get the job done, but I’m not sure he is.”
Go Red For Women Event at State Capitol
Althoff joined in the fight against heart disease, the number one killer of Illinoisans, at a special Go Red For Women event at the Illinois State Capitol on January 29. She is pictured here with several other women state senators.
Go Red For Women celebrates its 10th birthday this February. The movement focuses on educating women on the risk factors of heart disease, the warning signs of a heart attack and how to live a healthier lifestyle by exercising regularly and eating healthy. You can show your support for Go Red For Women by wearing red on February 7th, National Wear Red Day.
Internet Betting on Horseracing
While in Springfield, lawmakers also approved legislation extending the sunset date for Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW). Under House Bill 11, persons can continue to place bets on horseracing over the Internet or telephone.
The person placing the bet must first deposit money in an account and then place wagers against the money held in the account. Winnings are also deposited into the account.
In addition, the legislation authorized six additional Off-Track Betting (OTB) licenses in the state, two each for three racetracks located in Cook County – Balmoral/Maywood, Hawthorne and Arlington.
Propane Gas Emergency
The severe cold weather and a resulting shortage of propane to heat homes in many areas of the state prompted State Sen. Sam McCann (R-Carlinville) to introduce Senate Bill 2757, which would take a number of steps to help alleviate the problem. He was quickly joined in the effort by a bipartisan contingent of Senators.
McCann had previously called on the Governor to issue a state of emergency, which the Governor did. However, the Governor’s declaration was very limited and did not take all available action.
The legislation would temporarily increase weight allowances on Illinois interstates to 100,000 pounds for vehicles carrying propane, which would reduce transportation costs and help increase the available propane supply in the state. It would also temporary increase the threshold for eligibility in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); add additional funds to the program; and establish a short-term loan program through the Illinois Finance Authority for small businesses, propane distributors, and farmers.