Joe Sosnowski

By Bob Balgemann


STATEWIDE – State Republican leaders Jim Durkin and Christine Radogno have introduced their proposal to provide funding for the departments of Aging, Human Services, Public Health, Veterans Affairs, and more.

The plan, House Bill 6553, would appropriate $433 million from the General Revenue Fund and $858 million from other state funds to support those agencies’ services.

State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, said a significant portion of the combined $1.291 billion could be realized by “enacting common-sense changes to state pension systems, reforms that are not subject to court challenge and yield savings that can be banked immediately.”

For instance, he said there are 400 school district employees who are paid salaries of $225,000 annually. “As of now, the state of Illinois pays all of the pension costs for these individuals,” the lawmaker said. “Instead of this being paid by Illinois taxpayers, Gov. (Bruce) Rauner suggests that the state require an employee to pick up the pension costs for anyone earning a salary of over $180,000 a year.”

Sosnowski said the most vulnerable of Illinois residents rely on services provided by those human services departments.

Reforming Illinois’ pension system could save an enormous sum of money, he continued.

“If Gov. Rauner’s pension changes were implemented immediately, experts estimate they would save hundreds of millions of dollars for fiscal year 2017.

“It’s time the government took a look in the mirror and realized that there are things that can be done better to set Illinois on a successful path to a financially sound future,” he said.

Illinois has been without a budget for 10 months.

Sosnowski said it’s imperative that the merits of HB6553 be vetted and debated on the House floor.

Illinois residents chose to be represented by a bipartisan form of government, he added. HB6553, a Republican appropriations bill, “deserves the same rights to be heard by the General Assembly members as does any Democrat appropriations bill.”

Election fuels spending bills

When the Legislature convened March 1, state Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Sycamore, said there was a glimmer of hope that progress could be made on funding higher education and human services.

He reported that House Minority Leader Jim Durkin met with Speaker Madigan to discuss a compromise spending plan with a revenue source using any of the several bills that have been introduced in the House. The only request was that Democrats and Republicans work together on a solution and avoid more votes on spending bills that just drive the state deeper into debt.

The Speaker’s response, Pritchard said, came in calling partisan bills for votes during the week.

The first vote was an attempted override of Senate Bill 2043, which Gov. Bruce Rauner had vetoed because it had no funding source. The attempt failed by two votes.

Late the next day, the representative said amendments to House Bills 648 and 2990 were voted out of a surprise committee meeting attended only by Democrats.

Those bills provided loan forgiveness – not actual revenue – and operating funds for nearly every state program still waiting to be funded. The $2.9 billion general revenue appropriation had no funding source, he said.

Pritchard said he opposed both bills because “spending money when our bank account is empty is wrong and only misleads program recipients expecting money and only receiving an IOU. This was an obvious attempt to allow some legislators to tell voters before the primary election that they had funded their programs.”

Rep. Sosnowski represents the vast majority of Boone County. Rep. Pritchard represents Bonus and Spring Townships, plus a few precincts in the city of Belvidere.

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