General Assembly passes state budget
For the first time in four years, the House and Senate have passed a full-year state budget before the May 31 adjournment deadline.

This budget was the product of months of bipartisan negotiations between members of the legislature and the Governor. This budget is balanced: Illinois is expected to bring in $38.52 billion in revenue in the next fiscal year, and this budget spends $38.5 billion. It increases funding for K-12 public education, and addresses important priorities like public health and safety, transportation and many others. It also includes a disaster assistance tax credit for the residents of the Watseka area who suffered damages from the flooding earlier this year. It does all of this without any more tax increases. While we still have a series of long-term issues to address, I believe this is a step in the right direction.

Make no mistake: state government still faces a number of significant challenges. They include our bill backlog and our underfunded pensions, among others. I hope this marks the beginning of the long-overdue process of getting our fiscal house in order. Now that we have enacted a balanced budget, we need to be watchful and make sure that state spending does not stray from this plan, or that we do not fall back into our old, bad spending habits once again. Today we can be proud of the fact that elected officials have come together in way they have not been able to do in the past few years and accomplished something positive for the people of Illinois.

State Rep. Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City) recaps the final day of the 2018 spring session of the Illinois House of Representatives. The House passed a bi-partisan balanced budget for the first time in four years before adjourning for the summer.
Session heading into its final days
The House and Senate are scheduled to adjourn on Thursday May 31. Under the Illinois Constitution, both houses must complete their work by May 31 or it becomes much harder to pass bills – they need a three-fifths supermajority instead of just a majority in order to pass. These last days of the scheduled session are always very hectic as members rush to get their bills through the process and on their way to the Governor before the deadline.

Governor proposes new classification of homicides
This week Governor Rauner issued an amendatory veto of House Bill 1468, proposing changes to enhance public safety in Illinois. His proposal included the creation of a new class of homicides, to be known as “death penalty murder” for those 18 or older who murder peace officers, or more than one person and who are convicted “beyond all doubt.”

New legislation would help put Illinois workers back on the job
House Bill 5864, the Blue Collar Jobs Act, was introduced recently to help kick-start construction projects throughout Illinois and create middle class jobs. The plan, which is supported by both business and labor groups, would use the withholding tax paid to construction workers to offer tax incentives to companies which make significant capital improvements in Illinois.

House and Senate Republicans call for adoption of revenue estimate
When you make your household budget, you probably start by considering two questions: what will my expenses be, and how much money will I have to work with. Making a state budget should not be any different. Yet, while we always consider the first question, in recent years we have failed to consider the second one, even though we are required to by the Illinois Constitution. House and Senate Republicans have each filed resolutions calling on the legislature to adopt a revenue estimate in order to begin the budgeting process for fiscal year 2019.