Winger's Weekly Wrap-up

Budget – FY17
$7 billion out-of-balance budget passed by House Democrats. Illinois House Democrats introduced their own “budget” for FY17, contained in House Floor Amendment #2 to SB 2048, undermining the work of the bipartisan budget working groups that had been making progress toward achieving a compromise to end the budget impasse.

The House Democrats’ budget weighs in at approximately $40 billion in spending with only $33 billion in estimated revenue. The Democrats unbalanced, unconstitutional proposed budget is $7 billion out-of-balance and would require a 47% tax hike to pay for all the additional spending.

House Republicans were denied a vote verification for a 500-page bill that was introduced a mere 90-minutes before it was called for debate on the House Floor. Democrats then limited the debate to less than an hour with a parliamentarian move. The first vote on Wednesday, May 25, was 63-53-1. There was a second vote on Thursday and the measure was passed again by a vote of 60-53-1.

By spending at least $7 billion more than Illinois expects to take in during the spending period, the measure is seen as likely to raise the count of unpaid Illinois bills up to or above $15 billion. Illinois is already the lowest-ranked of the 50 states in terms of credit rating. The controversial measure was sent to the state Senate for further discussion and debate. Governor Rauner has pledged to take veto action on the SB 2048 “budget” bill, should it get to his desk.

House Republicans stand up for Illinoisans. House Republicans took action on Friday, May 26, with only 4 days left in the spring legislative session, calling on all legislators in the House to literally “stand up” to show their willingness to stay at work over the weekend and continue bipartisan efforts to achieve compromise on a comprehensive, balanced budget. Rep. Mike Tryon reminded the body that the role of the minority is to challenge the majority and to keep them accountable. House Democrats instead chose to adjourn and leave town.

There’s a few days left to get a deal done, and we need to continue to work towards a bipartisan compromise to our State’s budget impasse. Rank and file members have been participating in working groups aimed at bridging the gap and coming up with both reforms and budgetary compromises.

Speaker Madigan continues to dismiss these saying they haven’t made progress. He’s wrong. They are making progress and their work needs to continue.

We need to see this bipartisan effort through to completion. If allowed to continue, the progress made by the working groups can lead to a budget compromise negotiated and agreed to by both sides and reforms to grow the economy.

This is what we need, what the people of Illinois want, and what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to come together and put the people of Illinois first. We owe it to every Illinois family and taxpayer to finish the job.

Winger Legislation Heads to Governor
Winger champions veterans, newborns & foster children in legislation headed to the Governor.  This week three bills for with Rep. Christine Winger is the chief House sponsor passed out of the Senate and is headed to the Governor to sign into law:

House Bill 5003 increases the number of Veteran's Courts in Illinois by requiring the Chief Judge of each judicial circuit to establish a Veterans and Servicemembers Court program. The legislation specifies that the Chief Judge of each circuit has the discretion to decide the format of the program, whether it’s a separate court or a problem solving court, including but not limited to a drug court or mental health court.

Veterans Courts focus directly on the needs of former and current members of the armed forces. Currently, there are 12 Veteran Court programs in Illinois. All are limited to veterans with non-violent records who are struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues. Veterans who qualify and successfully comply with court orders get the treatment they need and can have charges dismissed. As of 2014, problem-solving courts including Veteran Treatment Courts kept 1,200 offenders out of prison, saving the state of Illinois nearly $20 million.

House Bill 5665 will instill a little normalcy into the lives of children in the state's care. Currently children in foster care must seek permission from bureaucrats before they can engage in after school activities, get a job, go on a school field trip or even spend the night at a friend's house.

This legislation would remove the bureaucratic barriers to normalcy for children in the care of the state by giving foster parents the same ability to make parenting decisions for their foster children as other Illinois parents. House Bill 5665 requires caregivers to use the reasonable and prudent parent standard in determining whether to give permission for a child to participate in appropriate extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities.

House Bill 4935 makes certain all newborns receive hearing screenings as early as possible to prevent learning loss. Research shows that children with hearing loss who are identified and receive appropriate intervention before age 6 months are able to develop language skills comparable to their hearing peer group.

Economy – Housing Activity
Statewide home sales, prices accelerate. In line with nationwide real estate conditions, home sales and prices quickened in Illinois in April 2016. A report by the Illinois Realtors show year-over year sales moving up 8.2% in April, to 14,189 single-family units changing hands in the 2016 spring period. The statewide median price of a home increased 10.4% during the same twelve-month period, from $169,000 in April 2015 to $186,500 in April 2016.

Industry professionals credited relatively reasonable mortgage interest rates and overall economic trends for the upward activity. During the 30-day period studied, the nationwide average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.60%. As in previous months, trends in greater Chicago led the movement in Illinois as a whole. The median price for a home that changed hands in metropolitan Chicago in April 2016 was $230,000, up from $208,000 one year earlier. Residential real estate movements were especially active in Kane County, which had been affected by the 2008-09 downturn. April 2015-April 2016 price trends showed an increase of 21.0% in the Chicago-area county and its far-western suburbs, to $215,000 for a median home.

Energy – Motor Fuel Prices
Price of gasoline rises with approach of summer driving season. The motor fuel price data aggregator tracked an increase in posted pump prices of 6.8 cents per gallon last week, to $2.41. Although prices in Illinois are almost half a dollar below the levels seen at this time last year, Illinois motor fuel prices once again topped the nationwide average. The $2.41 pump price for Illinois motor fuel last week was thirteen cents higher than the $2.28 national average for the same period. High Illinois motor and sales tax rates on motor fuel are blamed for much of the discrepancy.

In addition to high tax rates, the pump prices paid by Illinois motorists for summertime motor fuel is sometimes affected by supply/demand situations caused by the unique blends of fuel that are required by federal law to be sold in greater Chicago and St. Louis. Both metropolitan areas are officially classified as “noncompliance” areas in relatively permanent violation of the federal Clean Air Act, partly because of persistent levels of ozone. The federal government requires Chicago and St. Louis-area motor fuel retailers to sell special blends of motor fuel that are supposed to reduce ozone emissions.

Higher Education – UIUC
New UIUC dual-degree program in engineering/entrepreneurship. Repeated questions have been asked in recent years on how to speed up the marketing of innovations derived from persons affiliated with Illinois’ public colleges and universities, especially the University of Illinois and Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). In response to these concerns, UIUC’s College Engineering announced this week that it is prepared to offer a new dual-degree program in Innovation, Leadership, and Engineering Entrepreneurship. Implementation of the new program should begin in September with the approval of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. The program has already received the approval of the UIUC Board of Trustees.

The new dual degree will be marketed to students with vocations in engineering, computer science, or physics who are looking for skills acquisition sufficient to start up a business and bring an innovation to market. More than 1,000 annual enrollments are already chalked up at the UIUC’s Technology Entrepreneurship Center (TEC), an incubator facility that matches potential entrepreneurs with potential mentors and contacts.

State Government – Mandatory Arbitration
House Republicans turn back attempt to derail collective bargaining process. HB 580 would have imposed mandatory arbitration on the current labor-management relations between the State of Illinois, represented by the Rauner Administration, on the one hand, and several state unions led by AFSCME on the other. While 17 unions and labor units have accepted contract offers with the State, AFSCME has refused to accept any of the offers made to it. Budget analysts say that compliance with the demands made by AFSCME and the minority of unions that are allied to it would create a budget hole of as much as $3 billion/year at the expense of taxpayers.

After being vetoed by Governor Bruce Rauner, the mandatory-arbitration measure was brought back to the House for a veto override vote. House Republicans opposed the measure, saying that it would impose a slanted process upon the outcome of labor-management negotiations. The attempt to override the Governor’s veto failed on Wednesday, May 25, on a vote of 69-47-1. This tally fell short of the three-fifths majority (71 votes) required to override a gubernatorial veto.

Transportation – REAL ID – Drivers’ Licenses
House passes bill to keep Illinois drivers’ licenses OK for use in airports. The federal Department of Homeland Security has demanded that the 50 states take various actions to increase the security of their drivers’ licenses. States that fail to meet, or get closer to, the nationwide guidelines mandated by the federal REAL ID Act will no longer been seen as valid issuers of identification cards that will be approved for access to departure gates at airports, federal buildings, or bases used by the federal armed forces.

With this reality in mind, House members this week debated and passed SB 637. As amended by House Amendment #2, the measure draws a bright line between an Illinois drivers’ license and an Illinois official identification card, a separate document. The measure requires that Illinois applicants for an identification card or a drivers’ license present proof of their lawful status in the United States. The bill provides that no Illinois resident shall be allowed to have a state ID card and a state driver’s license; dividing up the two ID cards, and separating those eligible for each one. As amended, HB 637 was sent back to the Senate for further discussion and debate. The House vote was 117-0-0.

Pet Rescue Fair
A huge supporter of pet adoption and the humane treatment of animals, Rep. Christine Winger sponsored several pieces of legislation this year to protect animals and is hosting a Pet Rescue Fair to promote pet adoption.

If you've been thinking about adopting your next pet please join us at this family-friendly event on June 18 in Bartlett to meet adoptable pets and talk to pet experts. Here are the details:

Pet Rescue Fair
Saturday, June 18, 2016
12:30 p.m. to 3:00 PM

James "Pate" Philip State Park
2054 W. Stearns Road
Bartlett, IL