Illinois is set to receive about $7.5 billion in funds from the latest Stimulus Bill. Instead of rushing to find ways to spend this money on new programs and new initiatives, the state would be better served to focus on paying back bills and getting the budget under control.
The best way to maximize the federal money would be to implement real reforms such as pension reform and spending reform. What we should not do is spend this money on new programs that will only put us deeper in debt and make our state much worse off financially.
Of course, we have a long history of making bad financial choices and I suspect the most likely outcome will be more bad choices. We will see, but I do not have much confidence that the Governor and the majority in the House and the Senate have any interest in making responsible budgeting decisions.
This week’s newsletter highlights a healthcare bill the House approved; election legislation the House passed this week; and a measure allowing schools to inscribe “In God We Trust” on school buildings.
As always if you have any questions, feel free to email me or call my office at 217-774-1306.
House approves costly health care initiative
The Illinois House passed a massive health care bill this week that could potentially add billions in new spending.
House Bill 158 is a 227-page bill aimed expanding medical services available to low-income residents and people of color. The legislation includes provisions to develop community health workers statewide, amend the prescription monitoring system to better combat the opioid epidemic, fund safety-net hospitals, and create a program to prevent and treat sickle cell anemia among dozens of other provisions.
The measure’s price tag could be as high as $12 billion by some estimates. I have no issue with efforts to improve healthcare options for those in need, but when the state already has a $4 billion budget hole that needs to be filled, a backlog of more than $5 billion in unpaid bills, and $144 billion in unfunded pension liability – where is the money going to come from to pay for all of the prescribed spending in HB 158?
If the Democrat majority wants to find news ways of spending money, then perhaps they should get behind long-term solutions to address pensions and other financial constraints on the state budget.
House approves measure that would make elections less safe
The Illinois House approved a measure to codify several of the emergency election provisions that were temporarily approved last year ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Bill 1871 would make permanent some vote-by-mail and curbside voting expansions and would allow the state to use federal funds distributed to states for election administration through the 2002 Help America Vote Act to create and maintain secure collection sites for mail ballots.
One of the problems I have with HB 1871 is that it requires the State Board of Elections to provide guidelines rather than hard and fast rules when it comes to policies to protect the ballot collection boxes. Voting by mail already carries tremendous risk of fraud and unfortunately, House Bill 1871 makes a bad situation even worse.
Legislation allowing schools to display the words “In God We Trust” advances
This week, the House Elementary & Secondary Education: Administration, Licensing & Charter School Committee advanced legislation allowing schools to prominently display the words, “In God We Trust” inside or outside a school building.
Nothing in House Bill 217 is a requirement. The legislation is merely permissive.
The motto on our currency came about during the American Civil War. Citizens petitioned Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase to acknowledge the deity on American currency. A Congressional Act in 1864 allowed the new 2-cent penny to have the inscription and another act in 1865 allowed for the motto to be placed on all gold and silver coins.
At a time when our nation was greatly divided – people turned to God for hope and salvation. While we are not fighting another Civil War right now, we can all agree that our nation is a divided one. The words “In God We Trust” were important in the 1860s and I believe they are important now.
The legislation now moves to the House floor a vote.