Legislators review stopgap budget

A stopgap Illinois budget was approved June 30. The Illinois News Network reported that the budget funds K-12 education for the entire year and road construction projects, some human services and government operations through the November election.

Southern Illinois state legislators shared their thoughts on the new budget, which took effect July 1.

State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said in a news release that the “stopgap budget approved June 30 puts government on the right path even if it is not a full fiscal year budget for the State of Illinois.” 

“Given the level of partisanship that controls the process, this plan is a positive step forward. It’s not ideal. It’s not what I worked for and hoped for, and I’m disappointed we essentially went a year without a state budget in place,” Luechtefeld said. 

“But it is a good start, it breaks the impasse and it accomplishes a number of funding goals without a tax increase.”

Luechtefeld said the budget makes education funding a top priority. Highlights include;

Elementary and secondary schools are fully funded for Fiscal Year 2017 and will open on time this fall.

Education is funded at 100 percent of the Foundation Level for the first time in seven years.

All districts are “held harmless,” which means no district will lose funding compared to last year. The vast majority of schools will receive more money than last year.

A new statewide $250 million equity grant for the poorest school districts.

$75 million for early childhood education.

$1 billion additional funding for colleges and universities on top of $600 million already approved in Fiscal Year 2016, which ensures universities open on time and complete a full fall semester.

$151 million for MAP grants for the 2016 spring semester 2016. This goes to public and private colleges, for all students who were awarded MAP grants for the spring semester.

$114 million for community colleges.

The 58th District senator said the budget deal also includes full year funding for important public infrastructure projects.

“Our transportation system is a critical component of economic growth,” said Luechtefeld. 

“We need to ensure our transportation system is the best it can be. The agreement provides a full year of funding for this priority.”

The transportation portion of the budget includes;

$2.5 billion to ensure active transportation projects continue uninterrupted and protect an estimated 25,000 construction and related jobs. The funding also allows the state to restart stalled construction projects throughout the state.

$213 million for transit and rail projects

$127 million for airport improvements, and

$111.7 million for miscellaneous capital needs.

“Another basic and important function of government is the care and support we provide for our most vulnerable citizens,” said Luechtefeld.

“The budget also includes $701 million for human services and it funds critical government services to help cover services not already being paid under consent decrees or court orders. It also provides funding for state prisons, mental health centers and veterans’ homes.”

The senator said the budget deal includes money for the Illinois State Police to pay for fuel and vehicle maintenance to ensure public safety. It also contains funding to keep state parks open. It specifically prohibits pay raises for legislators and other state officials.

“Unfortunately, the past year was marked by resentment and spite, with little care and concern for the people of Illinois,” said Luechtefeld. 

“I place most of the blame with the Speaker who just couldn’t face the fact that Illinois has a Republican governor. 

“However, even with a super majority in the House and the Senate, the majority party failed on its own to pass a balanced budget as required by our Constitution. 

“And so, after Democrat leaders informed us that they did not want to do a balanced budget along with common-sense reforms until after the November election, we had to do something to ensure critical government services are funded and schools open on time. This isn’t ideal, but it is necessary.”

State Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, said in a news release that he joined colleagues from the House and Senate Thursday, June 30, “to pass a bipartisan, full K-12 budget that will ensure schools open on time this fall and that local schools have the resources they need to operate through the upcoming school year.”

Forby expressed his relief that the governor temporarily set aside his agenda so that a budget agreement could be reached.

“Southern Illinois schools will not only open on time this fall, but we will finally see our fair share,” Forby said. 

“It was a fight, but once the governor agreed to drop his demands, we were able to move forward on making sure our school children have the resources they need to succeed.”

The budget also included funding for the Illinois Department of Transportation to ensure capital projects continue across the region.

“This was also about thousands of construction workers keeping their jobs and making sure infrastructure projects, which are vital to our local economy, continue,” Forby added. 

The measure contains funding to keep the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center open, money promised to Alexander County to clean up flood damage and the following Capital Development Board projects:

Upgrades to the Vienna Correctional Center in Johnson County.

Replacement of the roofing systems for the Shawnee Correctional Center.

Upgrades for the primary and emergency electric generators for the Illinois Youth Center in Harrisburg.

“This is great for my district,” said Forby “These projects are long overdue, and I want to bring these projects home to my district. More construction projects mean more jobs, and that’s what we need in Southern Illinois.”

State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, released the following statement June 30 after he voted  to pass a temporary budget aimed at funding critical services, schools and state facilities:

“The fact that many of Southern Illinois’ most vulnerable residents have suffered because of the state’s inability to enact a state budget is embarrassing.  Senior citizens, people with disabilities, and homeless veterans have all been hurt due to this impasse.

“The passage of this emergency stopgap budget marks a good example that when people put aside their political differences and focus on serving the people, progress can be made. What is important is that we do not lose sight of this fact and continue to craft a full-year balanced state budget.”

“The proposal that I supported will avoid multiple catastrophes, namely making sure that Southern Illinois schools open on time, while also bringing more desperately needed resources into our region’s classrooms.  

“Despite the governor’s efforts to cut education funding during negotiations, I have stood firm for additional school resources for Southern Illinois because our students deserve it.”

“Funding for vital programs like those for children with disabilities, rape crisis centers, and services for the elderly are also included in this plan.  Southern Illinois’ taxpayers have suffered more than other residents throughout the state.  

“Municipalities throughout our region are owed for subsidizing utility costs for state facilities to keep them operational.  This plan will help to settle those debts. 

“Also, residents who have been impacted by flooding in Alexander County will also see relief.”

“Despite recent claims that I support bailing out Chicago’s public schools, I stood in strong opposition and voted against two proposals today that would send our hard-earned tax dollars up to Chicago. 

“The students of Southern Illinois are just as important as the students of Chicago and I believe we need to provide property tax relief for our residents.  

“I have spent my career fighting for the people of Southern Illinois, from the kindergarten students to the elderly. I stand ready and willing to roll up my sleeves and complete the work we were sent here to do.”

State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said in a  June 30 news release that she “joined a bipartisan coalition of legislators in the Illinois House today in supporting a stopgap funding measure designed to make sure schools open on time, higher education receives critical funding, human services providers are kept afloat, and road projects continue.

“Today’s action on SB 2047 provides needed funding for many items that State government is supposed to have been taking care of for many months. 

“There are parts of this plan that I am ecstatic about, but I want to be realistic and note that there are many, many folks left out of this budget because it is afterall just a temporary spending plan.”

Bryant said that among the highlights of SB 2047 is a guarantee for funding for Pre-K through 12 schools to ensure that they can open on time and that they can operate for the entire school year.

“A major priority of mine was to get more money for the schools in my district,” Bryant said. 

“I am pleased to report that every school in my district will get more money this year than they did last year. That’s a win for Southern Illinois. The parents, teachers, and school administrators should be applauded for never giving up the fight for a budget to ensure schools would open on time and stay open all year.”

The legislation provides funding for community colleges, Southern Illinois University and for MAP grant recipients. 

Bryant said she is “also thankful to all of her constituents that have written, called, emailed and visited her office to urge passage of a higher education budget.”

“What we were able to achieve is only one part of the funding that higher education needs,” Bryant said. “That being said, we’re better off passing a six-month stopgap bill to allow SIU, John A. Logan College, Shawnee College and Rend Lake College to continue their operations and to allow low income students the opportunity to obtain a world class education.”

Human services providers will also receive $700 million in much needed funding to continue current services and to catch up on past due bills. 25,000 jobs will be saved as of July 1 as road projects will continue uninterrupted in the State due to today’s legislative action.

“Today’s a good day, but we aren’t done,” Bryant said. “There’s much more to do.”

Following are items covered by the budget passage: 

K-12 Education: Increases general state aid by $361 million. Equity grant to assist high poverty schools. $75 million increase to early childhood education. Full year of funding for fiscal year 2017.

Higher Education: $1 billion in funding for universities, community colleges, MAP Grants, adult education, career and technical education, Illinois Math and Science Academy operations. Covers Fiscal Year 2016 and first half of Fiscal Year 2017.

Human Services: Includes $667 million in funds from the Commitment to Human Services Fund for programs not currently operating under court order. Covers 65 percent of full funding for the 18-month period. Includes programs that were suspended, such as autism programs, Teen Reach and other youth programs.

Agency Operations: Funded from the budget stabilization fund ($275 million), general revenue funds ( $448 million) and Commitment to Human Services Fund ($31 million) for operational expenses. These amounts will pay for expenses such as utilities, FOID, medical care, gas and more.

Capital: The bills include appropriations for IDOT projects, EPA projects and other development projects that have had to shut down mid-construction.

Other State Funds: Includes items such as federal funds for the Area Agencies on Aging, emergency response appropriations and other similar programs.

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158
Email: news@annanews.com

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