A series of appropriations committee hearings were held in Champaign, Springfield, and Edwardsville this week. Each of the marathon hearings dealt with the current and proposed fiscal adjustments intended to bring Illinois’ budget back from the abyss.
After 12 long years of fiscal malpractice by former Governors Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn and Democrat supermajorities in the General Assembly, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are now working to establish spending priorities and balance the state budget. Since taking office in January, Governor Bruce Rauner has worked with both Republican and Democrat lawmakers to tackle the state’s serious financial problems.
While a legislative fix to balance the current state budget and keep government operations running was recently signed into law, passage of that measure was just the beginning of the difficult budget decisions legislators will be required to make in the coming months. On April 14, the Director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget told lawmakers that an additional $100 million in statutory fiscal reductions may be needed.
Republican Senators acknowledged that the magnitude of the state’s fiscal problems make difficult spending reductions necessary. Senate GOP legislators underscored the need to first identify ways to reduce inefficiencies and redundancies in state government, pointing out there are often six, eight, or even a dozen different state agencies or grant programs dealing with the same issue.
For the second straight week, Senators Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) and Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) asked university leaders and agency grant recipients about Illinois’ severely lopsided workers’ compensation and unemployment costs, which negatively impact their “bottom lines.” It’s estimated that much-needed reforms to workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance would result in significant rate reductions; the State of Illinois would save millions in reductions to associated employee costs.