Education budget passed, many state services funded through end of the year

As always, you can contact me via webform at www.repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106) Watseka.

State K-12 budget will enable schools to open on time, stay open all year
On the last day of the fiscal year, the House and Senate came together to pass a budget bill which included full funding of Illinois schools for the first time in seven years. This will allow every school district in Illinois to open on time this fall, and to stay open for the full school year.

In addition, it ends the unfair practice of “proration” which reduced the level of General State Aid which schools have been receiving over the past seven years. This year’s K-12 budget provides record funding for elementary and secondary education, an increase of $520 million compared to last year.

Higher education is also funded by this bill. One billion dollars in state funds, largely from the Education Assistance Fund, will go to ensure that colleges and universities can open their doors and complete the fall semester. Over $150 million in funding for MAP grants is included in the bill that was passed June 30.

Pass-through federal funds, transportation projects and local government distributions authorized for full year
The budget also included a full-year authorization of pass-through federal funds. That includes programs that receive funding which Uncle Sam gives to the states to distribute. A good example is senior centers which receive funds through the federal Older Americans Act. In order to receive those federal funds, the state must match the federal contribution. This legislation puts that state match in place for the full year, thus making $8.4 billion in federal money available as well.

Road and bridge improvements; which were threatened by the lack of a budget after July 1; will continue for the full fiscal year. In fact, all capital improvements, such as school construction grants and local water and sewer projects, are funded for the entire fiscal year. Emergency repair projects to protect the safety of the public and employees at state facilities were also funded for the full year. Local governments; which had to go several months without their share of motor fuel tax money last year; will receive those funds all year.

Stopgap funding in place for many other state agencies
Other state agencies and priorities are funded through December 31, while negotiators continue to work out an agreement for a full-year, balanced budget. The stopgap budget provides six months of funding for operations of state mental health centers and veterans homes, fuel for State Police cars and IDOT repair and snow removal vehicles, funds for child support collections, prisons, and other key state government services. Human services programs not already covered by court decrees will also be funded through December 31.

This six-month budget allows the working groups which cooperated to reach this budget agreement to continue their work to put together a balanced, full-year state budget with the reforms we need to grow our economy. It allows important services like schools to have the certainty of knowing they will be open all year, and keeps other services running while their budgets are worked out. Most importantly, it avoids the chaos and concern that gripped so much of Illinois last summer and fall as the state proceeded without a budget.

The budget which is now in place is the product of honest, good-faith negotiations between the Governor and legislators of both parties. While a temporary budget is not ideal, it shows that it is possible for us to work together to reach consensus. I hope this can be a starting point for more agreement and less animosity in the months to come.

Illinois residents not yet told how much their ACA premiums will go up
Sharp increases in average 2017 Obamacare premiums, in many cases exceeding 10%, have been reported under the mandatory reporting provisions operating in many states.  However, Illinoisans have not yet been told what proposed 2017 premium rates will be, and observers of the process believe that it will be at least another month before this disclosure is made in Illinois.

The 2017 insurance policies covered by this delayed disclosure are policies offered for sale in Illinois, or in regions located within Illinois, on the insurance exchange operated under the supervision of the state under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  2017 rate plan applications were submitted by insurance firms to the Illinois Department of Insurance in April, but under current law and administrative policy, these rate plan numbers are considered to contain sensitive, proprietary industry information.  Instead of being released, the numbers are being scrutinized privately by the Department.

Federal law requires premium increases of 10% or more to be reviewed by each state.  This process is supposed to lead to effective regulation of rate increases.  In some regions of the U.S. other than Illinois, insurance companies are asking for 2017 rate increases of more than 20%.

Lieutenant Governor first in line of succession, chairs several commissions
Illinois has had 47 Lieutenant Governors since Pierre Menard back in 1818. In that time, seven Lieutenant Governors have succeeded to the office of Governor. They have included John Hamilton succeeding Gov. Shelby Cullom in 1883 when Cullom was elected to the Senate, John Wood assuming the office in 1860 when Gov. William Bissell died, and of course in 2009 when Pat Quinn became Governor following Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment.

The current Lieutenant Governor is Evelyn Sanguinetti. Today, her office carries out a number of functions assigned both by the Governor and by statute. Lt. Gov. Sanguinetti chairs Governor Rauner’s Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force, which looks for ways to streamline local government and eliminate inefficiencies. The Lieutenant Governor also chairs the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council. In addition, the Lieutenant Governor is the chair of the Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee, which serves as the state’s point agency for retaining and developing the military bases and surrounding areas in the state.

Did You Know?
Ford County draws its name from the eighth Governor of Illinois, Thomas Ford, who served from 1842-1846. Iroquois County is named for the Native American tribe which lived in the area. Woodford County took its name from a county in Kentucky from which some of the original settlers came. Vermillion County is named for the Vermillion River, and Livingston County was named after Edward Livingston, who served as Secretary of State under President Andrew Jackson.

Independence Day
Have a very happy and safe 4th of July!