Please note: The Week in Review is compiled by the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus each week as a public service to provide constituents with information about legislative action and activities during the week.
Springfield, Ill. – State Senator Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) announced his inaugural edition of “Capitol Agenda with Senator Sandack” will air on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. on Elmhurst Regional Public Access Channel 19. Tune in to hear Sen. Sandack and his guest, State Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine), as they discuss many of the issues facing the State of Illinois.
As lawmakers prepare to return to Springfield for Gov. Pat Quinn’s annual budget address on Feb. 22, Sen. Sandack says he is looking forward to an in-depth account of the Governor’s plan for Illinois’ finances, including more detail on how Quinn proposes to accomplish the goals laid out earlier this month in his State of the State speech.
Following the State of the State address, lawmakers from both parties noted that though the Governor’s address was full of uplifting rhetoric and compelling ideas, they were disappointed he glossed over the daunting fiscal obstacles facing Illinois. Most officials said they would have liked specifics on how the Governor’s proposals would be financed, considering the state’s current economic challenges.
On Wednesday, Feb. 22, Senator Sandack hopes for more detail on how Quinn plans to reduce the state’s projected deficit. Even after the 67 percent income tax increase, Illinois is still on an unsustainable path, with debt and unemployment continuing to rise, and the state’s credit ratings continuing to be lowered. When taking into account the financial obstacles facing Illinois, Senate GOP legislators are also interested to learn how Gov. Quinn intends to phase out the tax increase as planned.
According to projections the Governor’s administration released in early January, Illinois faces a deficit of more than $500 million in the current fiscal year, not including $2 billion in Fiscal Year 2012 Medicaid obligations that will be deferred into the next fiscal year. For the coming fiscal year, the Governor's office promised a tightly balanced budget that would spend $33.7 billion, based on $34.1 billion in projected revenues. Ideally, that budget would keep spending slightly under revenues, and allow for a modest surplus that could be used to reduce the state's backlog of bills. But, achieving that goal will be far from easy.
Under the outline presented by the budget office, virtually all state spending must remain flat for the next three years. In order to achieve a balanced budget there could be no increase in education, public safety, welfare and healthcare spending. That's a tall order, given that current Medicaid projections show that Illinois would need to spend about $3 billion more next year just to retain the program’s current level of services and prevent the existing backlog of bills from growing.
Most lawmakers are eager for more information on how Gov. Quinn plans to address the unsustainable costs associated with Illinois’ Medicaid and public pension systems, which are two of the most pressing issues facing Illinois. Both programs—and the associated costs—are growing at an alarming rate, elbowing out other essential public services.
Governor Quinn has indicated that he will propose to cut Medicaid by $2 billion and hold Medicaid spending to current levels. However, that would still not be enough to rein in the projected growth of the program. Unless serious action is taken to address Medicaid obligations, it’s estimated that within five years the annual cost of the program could reach $12 billion and the bill backlog could jump to $21 billion.
Senate GOP lawmakers said a good first step to reel in Medicaid costs will be to implement bipartisan Medicaid reforms signed into law in 2011. While pleased that the administration appears to finally be taking steps to put the bipartisan reforms into place, Senator Sandack says there are still concerns about apparent foot-dragging by the administration. Though it has been more than a year since the reforms were approved by lawmakers, none of the reforms have been implemented. In time, these reforms would save the state billions of dollars.
Republicans would also like to hear from the Governor on several other issues, including his proposed closure of the Tinley Park Mental Health Center and a developmentally disabled facility in Jacksonville, ending the scandal-plagued Legislative Scholarship program, and his plans for attracting and retaining employers and jobs.
The Senate GOP Caucus underscored their willingness to work with the Governor and the Democrat majorities in the House and the Senate to address the crises facing Illinois. Senate Republicans have consistently advocated for the spending cuts and sweeping reforms needed to for Illinois to achieve fiscal stability.
Sen. Sandack has introduced a measure that would place term limits on members of the General Assembly, saying that it could be one of many ways to start improving the conditions in the state.
“The way Illinois is now without term limits has not been so good,” Sen. Sandack said. “We can do far better and I suspect with more citizens serving and then going home, back to the private sector and their lives and families, we’ll get more participation from both elected officials and from the electorate. It is my hope that this resolution continues to pick up momentum.”
Sen. Sandack said the measure, SJRCA 41, would amend the Illinois Constitution to provide that an individual could only serve ten years in the Illinois General Assembly. Currently, fifteen other states have term limits, and the idea has been floated in Illinois before.
Honoring President Abraham Lincoln
One can hardly walk down the street in the capital city without seeing Illinois’ favorite son on every street corner. On Sunday, February 12, our nation celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s 203rd birthday.
It is likely that in honor of America’s sixteenth president, students in elementary schools across the country meticulously constructed stove pipe hats and beards out of black construction paper. However, the lessons of Lincoln’s life are not only for school children. His wisdom can teach every American a great deal.
President Lincoln has gone down in the history books as one of the most controversial and highly revered presidents in U.S. History. Lincoln’s story is the human embodiment of the American dream. From humble beginnings Lincoln went from boy teaching himself to read by the firelight in his family’s log cabin, to become the President of the United States of America.
Lincoln inherited a nation in crisis, but his presidential legacy is indisputable. During his time in office he successfully led this country through a military, constitutional, and moral crisis that threatened to tear apart the very fabric of the United States. As president, Lincoln preserved this nation’s unity and eradicated the abominable practice of slavery in the process.
While contemporary society views Lincoln with great admiration, in his own time the president did not receive such accolades. As President he faced harsh criticism from all sides. Yet he persisted in pursuing what he believed to be right for the country.
It certainly would have been easier for Lincoln to allow the south to secede and preside over an orderly divorce. Instead he fought to preserve that union and with it the principals upon which the United States was founded.
This is perhaps the most valuable lesson that Lincoln leaves behind. His legacy as a determined leader demonstrates the importance of being strong and standing up for what is right in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Lincoln once said, “The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me.”
Today Lincoln’s legacy endures, and his timeless wisdom resonates more and more with each passing day. From that boy teaching himself to read by the fire, to the man who taught himself the law, to the President who struggled tirelessly against overwhelming odds to preserve the nation he loved, President Abraham Lincoln stands as a shining example perseverance, self sacrifice, and love for one’s country.