Pritchard's Perspective for March 30th

March 30, 2015
In This Issue:
  Ø FY2015 Closure
  Ø  Focus on Israel and the Holidays
  Ø  House Turns to Debating Legislation
  Ø  NIU Outlines Successes and Plans
  Ø  Illinois Chamber Looks to Honor Development Projects
  Ø  Sycamore Residents Get Long-Awaited Visit to Springfield
  Ø  Lt. Governor Sanguinetti Visits DeKalb

FY2015 Closure
Once a budget is passed and the money appropriated, most state agencies and providers across the country focus on delivering services and don’t worry about being paid.  Most does not include Illinois.  True to past history, the legislature last May passed a budget that ran out of money months before the end of the fiscal year in June, especially for childcare, court reporters and guards at our state prisons. 
If you ran one of these programs or received benefits from them, the anxiety level was extremely high last Monday.  After months of negotiations about how to “find” $1.65 billion without raising taxes, the plan came together and HB317 and HB318 were passed in the House on Tuesday and in the Senate on Thursday.  The Governor has signed the legislation and the Comptroller is busy signing checks and distributing them. 
Many now ask if the legislature has learned a lesson about budgeting and working together to solve tough problems.  For one, I hope so as the focus now turns to the FY2016 budget and its bigger imbalance of revenue and spending.  
Details of the FY2015 budget solution are instructive for how to approach next year’s budget.  First, the bills were negotiated by the four legislative caucuses with strong leadership from the Governor.  Then the bills passed with bipartisan support. though probably no one liked taking fund balances from accounts dedicated for other purposes or making cuts to most agencies and programs this late in the fiscal year. 
The budget was balanced by reducing spending—generally 2.25 percent across the board in the case of FY2015-- and then making adjustments based upon priorities and individual situations.  The Governor is looking to make significant reductions in program spending next year in part through better department management, reducing inefficiencies and duplication, and setting priorities.  While families, businesses, and local governments do that every day, it’s a new concept to state governments of the past decade or so.
HB317 also contained money for the Governor to respond to unanticipated situations and to backfill cuts in priorities like education.  Look for this discretion in the next budget.  
Yes, the FY2015 solution contained more revenue just as many believe FY2016 will require.  It’s important, though, to start with what’s needed to operate the government (something akin to zero based budgeting or budgeting for outcomes) and then look at revenue.  The legislature has created budgets the other way in recent years—looked at revenue and then spent at least that amount. 
HB318 transferred $1.36 billion from other state funds and resisted the authority in the FY2015 budget to borrow more money.  The Office of Management and Budget assured legislators that such funds had sufficient reserves and could continue doing what they were created to do.  The budget package also included a supplemental payment from hospitals under the Medicaid program which would garner more federal funding.

Focus on Israel and the Holidays
       
The legislature is in recess for the next two weeks for what is called a Spring break.  Many will also be celebrating Easter or Passover, both of which have religious ties to the nation of Israel.  It was only appropriate then that the Midwest Consul General for Israel, Roey Gilad, addressed the full House on Thursday.  He explained the Israel election process, addressed what the results mean moving forward, and its impact on U.S.-Israel relations.
        Gilad cited the longstanding business relationship between Israel and Illinois; 200 Illinois companies do business with Israel.  Products exported to Israel include agricultural, electronic, machinery, manufactured commodities and chemicals.  He called on Governor Rauner to lead a trade and development delegation to his country to further strengthen this relationship.
Consul General for Israel Roey Gilad

House Turns to Debating Legislation
House and Senate committees have been listening to advocates and opponents of legislation since February, and then voting which bills should advance to floor debate.  In all, there were 2,399 Senate pieces of legislation considered and 4,591 in the House.  For the most part, committee work came to an end last Friday with the deadline for passing bills out of committee.  
The next phase of a bill becoming a law involves floor votes and consideration by the other chamber.  Most of the introduced bills has gone to the bill graveyard and will not be considered further this spring.  The Illinois House advanced 512 bills from committee to the House floor including 33 that I sponsored or cosponsored.   Less than 12 percent of all bills filed this spring were able to achieve approval by a House committee. 
I will be talking more about legislation as it comes for a vote or passes the House in the weeks ahead.

Illinois Chamber Looks to Honor Development Projects  
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce believes Illinois is a great place to grow a business and they want to recognize those companies that chose to locate, expand and contribute to the economy in our state.  Together with the Illinois Economic Development Association (IEDA) and ComEd, they are seeking nominations of projects that significantly added to the economy and addition of jobs in 2014.   
There are 18 geographic categories and six types of business development that will be honoredIf you know of a worthy local project that was completed in 2014, submit a nomination with this form.  Deadline is May 1.  
NIU Outlines Successes and Plans
When representatives from Northern Illinois University (NIU) came to testify before the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee last week they featured the major product of the university--students.  On display were the diversity of the student population and the learned skills in sales and marketing, leadership and business, and research of three students.  
Shown (L-R) with President Doug Baker are students
Christian Villalobos, Joe Frascello and Anthony Roberts.
President Doug Baker talked about the importance of giving students real work experiences through internships and his efforts to mobilize NIU alumni in providing such opportunities.  He also described the ‘Alternative Spring Break’ that many students had just taken where they went to different parts of the country (mostly warm) for service, learning and volunteer programs.  He said the program gives students direct experience with issues they are studying in the curriculum and provides opportunities to analyze and solve problems in real-world settings.
He also touted the successes of the seven degree granting colleges and its faculty including Dan Gebo, who was recently named Illinois Professor of the Year.  As students struggle on many college campuses, it was encouraging to see that Professor Gebo believes a teacher also needs to be part counselor and part mentor to ensure that students develop their full potential.
As with all the universities that have come before the Appropriation Committee, legislators asked questions about university affordability and efforts to cut operating costs.  Baker pointed out the sharp defunding of higher education by the state since 2002 –now just 22 percent of NIU’s budget--and corresponding rise in student fees to fill the hole.  He then went on to describe NIU’s efforts to limit cost increases through cuts in administrative staff and operating costs, and reviews of each department’s programs.

Sycamore Residents Get Long-Awaited Visit to Springfield
           For many, visiting Springfield is just a matter of doing it.  For people with developmental limitations, it’s a big deal to plan, arrange travel, and coordinate.  Last week a few clients of Opportunity House finally got their dream.  They not only visited the capitol, and learned background of the capitol and what the legislature does, but also saw where President Lincoln organized his cabinet, and the museum that honors his life.  
Communities are very fortunate to have organizations like Opportunity House and Open Door that help persons with disabilities expand their experiences and live safe and healthy lives.  This model of care for mental and developmentally challenged individuals was on display in the capitol as well on Wednesday.                                                                                        
Going Home Illinois, a group that encourages the closure of state mental health facilities for community based facilities, lobbied their position in the capitol.  The group advocates that, not only could the state save a lot of money, but also that community based care provides a better quality of life for clients.  Opponents are quick to point out that not all communities can meet the needs of clients with severe needs of support.
Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti will be in DeKalb on April 9 to visit with NIU students and staff, local government officials and businesses.  I hope you have an opportunity to meet this energetic official who is focused on citizen engagement, local government efficiency and mandate relief. 

I will be traveling around the district to discuss state issues in the next two weeks, let me know if you’d like to visit. 

Bob

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