The compromise on the budget, after an impasse of more than a year, also acknowledged the need to address structural reforms to improve Illinois’ business and jobs climate and implement government reforms. For more than a year, the Governor argued, with Senate Republican support, that reforms are needed to get Illinois’ financial crisis under control and to restore economic prosperity.
Illinois’ public debt continues to climb out-of-control, the state’s unemployment rate remains above the national average – as job losses out-number job gains – and Illinois is one of the top states for out-migration of residents.
Looking back on the recently-concluded spring legislative session, Republicans teamed-up with Gov. Rauner to protect taxpayers from the years of overspending and overpromising of prior governors and General Assemblies, controlled by Democrat supermajorities. The prior Administrations “kicked the can down the road” with unbalanced budgets, borrowing and tax increases. As a result, today, Illinois government is left with a record backlog of unpaid bills and more than $100 billion in unfunded public pension debt.
During the no-cooperation-no-budget 2016 Fiscal Year (July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016), Republican legislators and the Governor ensured taxpayers were a top priority. They placed a renewed emphasis on Illinois taxpayers and as a result:
· Defeated the Democrat supermajority FY 2017 spending plan ($7 billion out of balance) that would have raised personal income tax rates to more than 5.5%;
· Stopped the Democrat supermajority’s attempt to bailout Chicago with an additional $400 million in state taxpayer funds;
· Linked passage of the stop-gap budget to comprehensive pension reform, forcing the Democrat supermajority to negotiate over this and other structural reforms proposed by the Governor.
Despite its many challenges, during the 2016 legislative session Republican lawmakers and the Rauner Administration’s efforts:
· Provided record funding for elementary and secondary schools statewide with a plan that fully funds the foundation level, ends the unfair practice of proration for the first time in seven years ensuring no school receives less funding that it did last year, and provides a new poverty grant to help those students most in need;
· Saved more than $800 million in state spending by making the management of state agencies and programs more efficient;
· Reformed the EDGE tax credit program to eliminate “special” deals and only provide credits for actual job creation;
· Banned the revolving door of state officials becoming lobbyists to make money off the programs they designed;
· Implemented fraud reduction efforts that prevented $188 million in improper unemployment insurance claims;
· Took action at the Department of Health and Family Services to net state taxpayers more than $250 million by improving the administration of services;
· Launched a comprehensive review of Illinois police procedures, and other states’ best practices, for handling use of deadly force between officers and community residents;
· Began the process to sell the James R. Thompson Center;
· Reduced the number of youth in shelter care and residential treatment centers in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services;
· Launched a Health and Human Services transformation to improve services to the most vulnerable citizens while also making the services more efficient and affordable.
The direction Illinois is headed won’t change until a complete and balanced budget is passed that is tied to major structural reforms that grow the economy and reduce government spending. Suggested reforms to make government more efficient and accountable, which were blocked by the Democrat majority this session, include:
· Term limits for state legislators;
· Curbing lobbyist gifts to legislators and ending the legislator-lobbyist revolving door;
· Local control of government costs that send property taxes skyrocketing;
· Ending fraud and abuse in our workers' compensation system and curbing lawsuit abuse to make Illinois friendlier to job creation and economic growth;
· Government purchasing reforms to lower the costs and save taxpayers money.