Pritchard's Perspective for December 14th

Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to 
December 14, 2016
In This Issue:
  Ø  Christmas Wish
  Ø  Budget Talks Stall
  Ø  Fiscal Realities
  Ø  Witness History Being Made
  Ø  Winter Safety Reminders

Christmas Wish
The Christmas season is upon us with its message of a savior’s birth, hope, joy and peace.  This tree in the Capitol was decorated by America’s Gold Star Families and the Sergeant Anthony Maddox Memorial Fund, an army soldier who died from injuries sustained in Afghanistan in 2013.  The tree was adorned with pictures of fallen Illinois veterans who fought for peace.
There is gloom in our state as we come to an end of the temporary budget and leaders find little common ground in the search for solutions to reach a balanced budget and grow job opportunities. 
I found strength from the tree that, like the dedicated soldier, we all should work for peace and hope that will bring joy once again in our state.  This is my Christmas wish.   

Budget Talks Stall
In the last month, the Governor and legislative leaders had been meeting to discuss the Governor’s reforms to grow the economy.  Since Senate President Cullerton and House Speaker Madigan kept insisting on only discussing the budget, the Governor asked for their proposal.
Nobody wants to be the first to suggest that this state will need a tax increase and difficult budget cuts to balance revenue and expenses as required by the constitution.  As a result, the Governor and the legislative leaders have not scheduled any further meetings.  This is unacceptable.
A bipartisan group of legislators met last Friday to discuss worker’s compensation reforms, one of the suggestions by the Governor to help Illinois businesses be cost competitive.  While there may be bipartisan support for changes that bring down the cost of worker compensation insurance, nothing can happen until the leaders decide to move forward together.  Legislators must pressure the leaders for action.
There is little time to waste as the expiration date for the temporary stopgap budget looms.  Once again the most vulnerable people, higher education and service providers will feel the pressure of no state funding while the leaders feel---nothing?  Two session days have been scheduled on January 9 and 10 before the inauguration of the new legislature.  You can contact Speaker Madigan’s office at (773) 581-8000, President Cullerton’s office at (773) 883-0770, and the Governor’s office at (217) 782-0244 to call for compromise and action.  Then call legislators who need a push to speak up to their leaders.

Fiscal Realities
For those who think Illinois can solve its fiscal problems by just raising taxes, they should read the latest report from the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.  Using a specially developed computer model, it provides projections of Illinois’ fiscal imbalance and various paths to climb out of our fiscal hole.
The report used Illinois revenues and expenditures taken from the Illinois Comptroller’s office over the last 20 years to project results from different fiscal scenarios.  The report predicts a $13 billion deficit for the next fiscal year and even bigger deficits in the years to come unless severe measures are taken quickly.  
Researchers found that this is not a problem that can be solved easily in just a few years through any single action.  They concluded there is a need for sweeping policy changes to state tax hikes, expanding the tax base, budget cuts and economic growth.  While the report noted that enacting policies to encourage economic growth will have limited short-term impact, they could contribute to fiscal balance in the long term.  This is something the Governor has been attempting to drive home to other legislative leaders.
The authors of the report said their main goal is to get Illinois legislators and residents alike to understand the gravity of the fiscal situation and to spur immediate and drastic action.  The longer we wait to address our structural deficit issue, the worse the hole will get.  We must “stop digging”.  The report and other information about the Fiscal Futures Project can be found here.

Witness History Being Made
When the next General Assembly convenes on January 11, it will form the 100th body to govern our state and begin the count-down to the bicentennial celebration.  If you would like to be my guest at this historic occasion, reserve a spot by calling my office (815-748-3494) soon. 
          The House inaugural ceremony begins with a public reception at 10, the oath of office and election of Speaker at noon, followed by a private luncheon and tour of the Capitol.  The House of Representative events begin at the Public Affairs Center at the University of Illinois at Springfield.  I hope you can join me.

Winter Safety Reminders
Now that we know winter is here, it’s time to refresh our memories about safe winter driving tips.  The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has created a brief streaming video that includes factors to keep in mind when driving near snowplows, likely spots for road ice buildup, and survival items to carry in the vehicle.  They also provide an up-to-date map of winter road conditions throughout the state.  
A standard winter survival kit will include blankets, a first-aid kit, reflectors, an ice scraper for windshields, jumper cables, a snack bar for energy and bottled water.  Motorists should keep in mind that not all areas of our state have uninterrupted cellphone service.  For more information on winter safe driving, click here.

Many families will gather for the holidays and our house will be lively with grandkids as well.  We look forward to time with Jeanne (7), Mark (6), Mimi (4), and Scott (3).  Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and blessings to you in the New Year too.