Clock ticking on serious budget deal, Pontiac students’ legislation passes

As always, you can contact me via webform at While there, I hope you will take a moment to take my short survey on issues affecting the state.

Time running out on chance of Constitutional, balanced budget
The cautious optimism of earlier this month; when bipartisan working groups were said to be hammering out a budget deal; began to fade last week as Democrat leadership in the House rejected their proposal as “insufficient.” This week, Democrats advanced a wildly-unbalanced, unconstitutional budget that increased spending to more than $40 billion (about $7 billion more than the available revenue). We would have to raise taxes by around 47% to close that gap.

This amounts to more of the games that Democrats in the House have been playing since last spring. This situation is unacceptable: we haven’t had a budget in nearly a year, and now all the House has done is pass a budget that violates the Constitution’s balanced-budget requirement and explodes our already out-of-control deficit. It moves us no closer to ending the budget standoff.

Instead of continuing these games, we need to get a balanced budget in place, with the kind of structural reforms that will allow the state to grow again. The simple truth is that we need reform in order to grow jobs and have more people working and paying taxes. The more people working and paying taxes, the less taxes we need to have in order to fund state government.

As of this writing on Friday morning, there is still time to work together and pass a real budget; if the Democrats who run the House will permit it. I hope they will do so soon and take into consideration the negotiations that have been ongoing as we work toward a compromise and a real, balanced budget.

Rep. Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City) today joined House Republican colleagues in standing up to demand the House remain in session through the weekend to work toward an agreement on a balanced budget.

With only four days remaining in the regular session, Bennett joined in a call for legislators to stand if they are willing to stay at work during the weekend to work on a comprehensive, balanced state budget. The move came after House leadership cancelled a scheduled session day on Saturday May 28, leaving the House just three working days to pass a budget before the May 31 adjournment deadline.

With deadline approaching, more talk on the state budget
It’s a common theme every week in May: legislators from both parties continue to negotiate a state budget. This week, Governor Rauner and the four legislative leaders met to try to hammer out a compromise. The only agreements reached were to keep talking, and to put together working groups on several items.

Rep. Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City) will appear Sunday morning on WCIA's Capitol Connection program to discuss the ongoing state budget negotiations. The program will air on WCIA at 10 a.m. Sunday.

One proposed Constitutional amendment clears both houses
Only one of the many proposed Constitutional amendments made it through both houses in time to be submitted to the people of Illinois for possible ratification this fall. HJRCA 36 would put all revenues from transportation taxes and fees into a “lockbox” that can only be used for transportation purposes.

Under HJRCA 36, the money generated by these taxes and fees could only be spent for road construction and repair, enforcing traffic laws, and paying off transit-related debt.  Cash flows that would be affected by this amendment include the state tax imposed on motor fuel of 19 cents per gallon of gasohol and 21.5 cents per gallon of diesel fuel.  Sales taxes also imposed on motor fuel are not defined as specifically transportation-related taxes and fees, and would not be affected by this amendment.

A proposed amendment to abolish the office of the Lieutenant Governor passed the House, but did not get through the Senate. Another amendment to change the way Illinois draws legislative districts also passed the House, but the Senate passed a different version and the differences between the two could not be reconciled in time. The state constitution requires that all proposed amendments receive a 3/5 vote in both the House and Senate, and then must receive approval from 3/5 of the voters at the November election.

Redistricting amendment passes Illinois House, graduated income tax not called for vote

On Tuesday, the House passed a proposed Constitutional amendment which would change the way legislative district maps are drawn in Illinois. Currently, the map is drawn by incumbent lawmakers and then signed into law by the Governor. The proposal passed this week, HJRCA 58, would place redistricting in the hands of an eight-member commission appointed by members of the Illinois Supreme Court. The commission would be required to hold at least 15 public hearings throughout the state during the map-drawing process. The proposed amendment passed the House by a vote of 105-7.