From State Rep. Steve Reick:
This [that is, Last] Week in Springfield:
This week marked the extra-innings of the legislative session. Though we were scheduled to adjourn last Friday, we returned this week on Wednesday and completed our business (for now) during the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning.
We’ve all heard the phrase that ‘nothing good happens after midnight’.
That’s still true – especially with the budget that was passed at 2:30 in the morning.
So, why did it take until 2:30am on Saturday?
The leaders of the House and Senate forgot about the rules.
On Wednesday, five days after the Democrat’s self-imposed deadline to pass a budget, the Governor and the Democratic legislative leaders held a press conference to announce an ‘agreed upon, balanced budget plan’.
However, (and unsurprisingly) they didn’t provide any language for their plan, and they didn’t even show the plan to their own caucus before prematurely announcing it to the press.
Because they didn’t have the plan ready.
Nor did they have the mechanism ready to move the budget bills from the Senate to the House.
One of the few rules that the legislative leaders are constitutionally bound to follow says that a bill must be read on three different days before it can be voted on.
This includes the budget.
Usually they get around this rule by sending empty ‘shell’ bills to the other chamber, where the empty bill is amended, getting it done in a day or two.
This year, the leaders forgot to swap empty bills.
So, they did the only thing they could do to shorten the time period – they read the bill into the record before midnight of the first day and then waited until just after midnight of the second day (the third day) to pass the bill.
Before we even discuss the meat of the bill, it’s clear that the Democratic leaders in Springfield never miss an opportunity to miss a deadline, over-promise and under-deliver.
In today’s newsletter I’ll give you a deeper dive into the Democrat’s adopted budget.
I spoke a few times on the House Floor this week and I’ll share more on that below as well.
Other than the budget plan and its companion legislation called the budget implementation act, we also voted on other legislation including changes to
- drone surveillance,
- election law,
- Medicaid (see below), and
- allowing for the development of electric transmission lines.
In the coming weeks, I can give you a closer look at some of the legislation that was passed.
Hot Topic of the Week:
What’s Really in the State Budget?
It’s impossible to understand what’s in a 4,322-page budget package within the few short hours between the time it lands on our desk and we’re forced to vote on it, let alone summarize it in a few paragraphs.
For everyone else, here are some highlights:
- It spends $50.6 Billion which is one of the largest budgets in state history;
- Democrats claim the state will bring in around $100 million more than their budget spends;
- It invests $350 million additional dollars in our K-12 public schools;
- It includes a slight increase in LGDF which is [income tax] taxpayer money transferred back to local governments;
- It increases the Medicaid reimbursement rate for hospitals – a rate that has not been increased in over 20 years. This will really help our hospitals that have been struggling for the past few years; and
- It invests more in our child welfare system – something I have been advocating for throughout this legislative session. I’ll have more to say about this in an upcoming newsletter.
So why did I vote no?
- It raises lawmaker pay by 5.5%. That is on top of the 16% raise the majority passed in January. The pay raise is also unconstitutional since it raises salaries in the middle of the legislative session;
- It spends $550 million in healthcare benefits for undocumented immigrants, only half of what the program will ultimately cost taxpayers in its first year. This funding level alone means their budget is not balanced and blows a $400 million hole in the budget from day one;
- This budget includes new capital projects (read: special project and pork spending) for legislative districts, but only those represented by Democrats;
- It shortchanges workers who care for the developmentally disabled. After the state commissioned a study which said that wages should be increased by $4/hour, this budget only raises it by $2.50, and only for half of the year;
- This budget raids $700 million in funds meant for local governments. This will create increased pressure for local governments to raise property taxes;
- This budget does not include funding for state employees in the AFSCME contract for 2024. This will increase the amount by which this budget is out of balance;
- It includes $50 million to begin the process of constructing new legislative offices;
- It raises grocery and gas taxes by $430 million this year alone; and
- It spends hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars on new programs while not fully funding the state’s previous commitments.
Governor Uses Emergency Rules to Bail His Party Out of a $1.1 Billion Hole of Its Own Making
In April we learned that a program to provide Medicaid coverage to illegals between the age of 42 and 54, originally estimated to cost no more than $2 million per year had ballooned to an annual cost of an estimated $1.1 billion per year.
The plan has been expanded twice from its original form which covered illegals over 65 to allow for coverage for those between 54 and 65, and then to the current age range. There’s a bill pending which would expand coverage to all illegals over age 19.
[Governor Rod Blagojevich started out by putting children of illegals on state-funded Medicaid while he was in office.]
The Federal government provides reimbursement to the State for regular Medicaid costs but does not reimburse the cost of care provided to illegals.
Having found himself between a rock and a hard place, the Governor chose to “balance” his budget by postponing implementation of the program until January, so that $550 million would fall over into the next budget year.
Then he included in his Medicaid bill the power to issue emergency rules limiting the scope of the program.
We’ve seen this before with his 41 consecutive disaster declarations which were one-size-fits-all commands in which
- he tried to turn ‘non-essential’ businesses into criminals,
- impose universal lockdowns,
- school masking and
- vaccine passports.
Emergency rules can be issued for a period of 150 days, after which there can’t be a re-issuance of emergency rules on the same subject for 24 months.
This Medicaid bill waives that restriction, which in effect would give the Governor the same authority he had during COVID through his disaster declarations.
By granting himself serial emergency rulemaking authority, he’s trying to find ways to funnel money into this program without JCAR [Joint Commiktee on Administrative Rules] oversight.
As a member of JCAR, I’m going to do my utmost to see that this abuse of the IAPA’s rules is not allowed. I spoke to the issue in debate on the floor:
Diversity of Thought
One thing became obvious this week – the need for more independent thought and diversity of opinion within the Capitol.
The system will never change if the rank-and-file lawmakers fall in line every time. Here are my comments about it on the House Floor:
Honoring Our Fallen on Memorial Day
On Memorial Day, we honor our fallen men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.
Each year on the House Floor we recognize Memorial Day through a wreath laying ceremony and the reading of the Gettysburg Address. Abraham Lincoln’s words still ring true today about our obligation to continue the work of freedom as we honor those who gave their lives defending it.
The Week Ahead:
– I’ll keep you updated.