Kudos to all the central Illinois individuals and groups that come to the State Capitol and talk with me and other state officials about the issues important to you!
On May 16, I welcomed Steve Schroeder of Bloomington to my office in the Capitol. Schroeder is Development Director for The Salvation Army of McLean County, and was in Springfield to talk with lawmakers about issues important to The Salvation Army.
HELPING RAPE CRISIS CENTERS
Funding for Rape Crisis Services has been cut 26.5 percent in recent years, so I have introduced a bill to shift money from a program that already has six times as much funding, but serves significantly fewer clients.
Senate Bill 3921 would shift $1.7 million to the Rape Crisis Services from the Sexually Violent Persons program.
The Rape Crisis Services is projected to serve 18,900 clients in the current fiscal year. The Sexually Violent Persons program is projected to serve 476 clients in the current fiscal year.
The proposed Rape Crisis Services budget for FY13 is $4,193,700. The proposed Sexually Violent Persons program budget for FY13 is $26,831,000.
It is important to note that this diversion would not decrease current funding levels for the Sexually Violent Persons program – the $1.7 million is actually a proposed INCREASE for that program!
Both programs are very important and it is our hope that by shifting some of the funds, the programs will continue to provide the valuable services they provide.
PROGRESS SEEN WITH MEDICAID REFORM
At week’s end it appeared significant progress was being made toward closing a $2.7 billion gap in the Medicaid program.
The state needs to “cut up its Medicaid credit card” by reforming the controversial “Section 25” provisions in state law. Reforming this provision is critical to assuring that savings approved by the Legislature actually materialize, by limiting the Administration’s ability to push off costs.
Under “Section 25,” the state digs itself into a deep budget hole each year by buying more Medicaid services than it can pay for and then pushing the bills off to the next year. The Civic Federation earlier this year estimated that Medicaid debt would consume most of Illinois’ budget within five years if the state does not get Medicaid spending under control.
On May 18, the Senate approved the first piece of the state’s Medicaid reform puzzle, sending to the Governor Senate Bill 770 to address the problem of “presumptive eligibility.” Under presumptive eligibility, applicants for aid in Illinois are automatically assumed to be eligible and able to receive assistance before the state has determined whether or not they truly are eligible.
In response, Senate Bill 770 establishes that applicants cannot be reimbursed for the first 30 days of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) application process; the bill gives the state 45 days to process a TANF application.
CIGARETTE TAX HIKE ONLY STOPGAP SOLUTION
A proposed hike in cigarette taxes to generate more revenue for the Medicaid program has left many lawmakers skeptical. Tobacco taxes are a declining source of revenues, while Medicaid costs continue to skyrocket.
Using shrinking revenues to fund growing expenses would only be a stopgap solution that pushes the problems off once again, instead of dealing with the real issue of reducing spending.
FUNDING FOUND FOR CHILD CARE
The Senate addressed concerns surrounding the funding of the state’s Child Care Assistance Program by approving legislation that allocates general revenue funds to finance the Child Care Assistance Program.
The Governor had diverted money from the child-care program to pay TANF obligations.
Child-care providers and the approximately 85,000 parents who rely on the child-care program rallied for the program to be restored. Senate Bill 2450 was unanimously approved by the Senate and the bill is expected to be signed by the Governor.
MINIMUM WAGE HIKE WOULD HURT EMPLOYERS
On May 16, Democrat lawmakers pushed a measure through Executive Committee that would raise the state’s minimum wage to the highest in the nation.
Senate Bill 1565 would phase in the increase to the current minimum wage of $8.25, increasing by 50 cents annually until reaching $10.55 in 2015. At that point, the minimum wage would increase each year with the cost of inflation.
I voted against the measure. Many Illinois employers are already struggling, and business owners say a minimum wage hike will force them to lay off workers and increase prices.
A minimum wage increase won’t help the state’s business climate, which is already negatively impacted by Illinois’ high income taxes and workers’ compensation rates, as well as the state’s fiscal uncertainty and overly burdensome regulatory and legal system.
SENATE ACTION DETAILED ON WEB SITE
A list of all the week’s Senate committee and floor action, as well as a comprehensive list detailing all bills approved by the General Assembly, can be found at the Senate Republican Web site’s “Senate Action” page.