5/1/2006 2:53:00 PM Guest Column Chicago bunch will have the last say on budget
By Rep. ROGER EDDY For the Daily News
Before I get started this week on updating you regarding issues in Springfield, I want to take a moment and thank some very special people for their work. Last Wednesday was "Professional Assistants' Day." Often this day is referred to as "Secretaries' Day." The name was changed because, well, the individuals who perform these functions are much more than secretaries. They are truly the ones who get the job done.
For me, that fact is no different. I have terrific people who make my offices run smoothly. Without them, I could not keep up. So, thanks to Kathleen Rankin in Hutsonville, Stephanie Cox and Fred Clatfelter at the Casey office and Carrie Cloyd in Springfield for all that you do. These folks have a heart for public service and all do a terrific job. In addition, I am blessed to have the best personal assistant of all time in Lori Crumrin at my unit office and we are also blessed with Barb McCoy and Sue Gower at our two schools. Thanks to them and all of those secretaries in our schools that keep things going. Ask any principal or superintendent and they will tell you how tremendously valuable these people are!
As far as things in Springfield go, this week looks as if it will be the week the majority party will pass a budget and that we will adjourn for the spring. As you recall, the spring session was originally scheduled to adjourn on April 7. Although it has taken about an extra month for the budget to be agreed upon by Speaker Madigan, Senate President Emil Jones and the governor, the deal is almost done. To wait until after May 31 would mean there would be input from the minority party, since a super-majority vote is needed after the 31st.
I will provide more details about the budget once the final gavel falls on the spring session. It looks like about a $55.3 billion spending plan that once again relies on revenue from shorting the downstate teacher's pension system and other statewide pension systems by about $1.1 billion in payments. In addition, several hundred million dollars from other "dedicated funds" (including raids on the road fund) as well as about $960 million in new revenue from established revenue sources will be used to pay for new programs like "All Kids." We will also end the fiscal year around $1.7 billion short of paying money that we owe to providers like nursing homes, hospitals, doctors and pharmacies.
The House goes into session at 4 p.m. today and will likely quickly advance a "shell bill." My guess is that the vehicle bill will be SB 1520. That shell bill is sitting on second reading in the House. What is the "process" for the General Assembly passing a measure that spends $55.3 billion in taxpayer money? The bill will be moved to third reading today; this will meet the Constitutional requirement that all bills be "read" on three separate days in each chamber. It will still not have the final budget language in the bill.
On Tuesday, the House will convene and an amendment to SB 1520 will be filed (the amendment might be filed the night before but not likely). The amendment will contain about 1,000 pages with details related to the spending plan. After meeting the one-hour "posting requirement" for an amendment, the 1,000 pages can be delivered to the House floor for consideration that same day.
On the House floor, SB 1520 will be recalled to second reading for purposes of adding this 1,000-page amendment (a bill cannot be amended on third reading). Once the amendment is added, the bill will be moved back to third reading and debated for a few hours. Then a final vote on the $55.3 billion plan will take place. My predication is that it will receive 60 or more votes from the majority party and then the bill will move to the Senate for similar consideration and will pass there in the same partisan manner.
On Tuesday morning House Appropriation Committees will meet in order to allow for public input regarding the plan. However, remember that the amendment will be added to the bill on the House floor and that Appropriations Committees will be asking questions about a spending plan that has not yet been seen.
The entire process will take less than a full day. That is correct. The final document that details how your tax money will be spent will be on "display" for only a few hours before your elected officials are asked to vote on the plan. While other public bodies must display budgets for longer periods of time allowing for public comment and input, your state government can pass a $55.3 billion spending plan in less than two days without the final document being on display for more than a few hours. School district budgets are required by law to be displayed for 30 days and yet our state budget flies through on a "shell bill" in less than a day.
What makes this worse is the fact that really only three individuals have made the final decisions regarding this spending plan. There has been no direct or indirect input from the minority side of the aisle and very little input from many individuals on the majority side. This is because the public appropriation hearings are held without the budget document ever having been on public display.
Again this year, three powerful men, all residing within a few miles of each other inside the City of Chicago have made the final decisions on how $55.3 billion in statewide taxpayer money will be spent. Add to that the fact that much of the money being spent comes from the downstate teacher's retirement system and other dedicated funds, and it is little wonder that the final days will be contain some very spirited debate. Taxpayers and the public deserve a better system and someday they will demand something better. I hope it is soon.
I will have many more details next week along with some news about other legislation that was passed during the final couple of weeks. In the meantime, you can track legislation at www.ilga.gov. If you have any comments, please write me at either P.O. Box 125, Hutsonville, IL 62433 or 222-N, Stratton Office Building, Springfield, IL 62706, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org I will also keep you updated on my Web site: www.peopleforeddy.com.
Rep. Roger Eddy (R-Hutsonville) represents the 109th District in the Illinois House of Representatives.