- Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of articles that looks at some of the issues brought up in the Legislative Breakfast held Monday, March 6, 2017, held at the Kane County Government Center and hosted by the Kane County Board Legislative Committee. The committee is chaired by Susan Starrett and Barbara Hernandez.
State representatives and senators from both sides of the aisle attending Kane County’s legislative breakfast Monday said partisan politics has broken Illinois government — and several vowed to push back against party leaders in an effort to find a compromise.
“We’re not going to vote on anything until we have a budget,” said 26th District state Sen. Dan McConchie, a Republican. “When I was on the Senate floor, I realized, we can’t pass anything out of Senate without 30 ‘yes’ votes. If you have a bipartisan group that says, ‘I’m not voting,’ it puts leaders in a box. And that’s a box we ought to be putting them into.”
More than a dozen state and federal legislators or their proxies attended the annual breakfast hosted by the Kane County Legislative Committee. Each lawmaker came away with an understanding of some of the bills that are of high priority to Kane County and had a chance to offer their perspectives on what’s happening in Springfield and Washington D.C.
All Illinois lawmakers said that local government is working much better than state government.
“It’s good to be here in a place where a community can balance its budget,” said 65th District state Rep. Steve Andersson (R-Geneva).
During his opening remarks, Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen said state spending and unfunded mandates are among Kane County’s concerns, noting that the “Grand Bargain” proposal in Springfield calls for $6.5 billion in additional revenue through increases in sales and income taxes.
If you divide that number by Illinois’ population of about 12.5 million, he said, that represents about $520 for every man, woman and child in the state.
“For a family of four, that’s $2,080,” he said. “I don’t know about you, but that seems like a lot of burden on the citizens we represent.”
Among the state of Illinois topics discussed at Monday’s breakfast was HB 0278, which involves the Local Government Distributive Fund. Some legislators expressed concern that income tax revenue collected by the state on behalf of local governments would be siphoned away to address the state’s ongoing financial crisis.
“Our dysfunction has made life difficult for local governments,” said 43rd District state Rep. Anna Moeller (D-Elgin). “The Local Government Distributive Fund is near and dear to my heart, and I understand the uncertainty local governments feel. That’s a fight I’m willing to stand up for along with you. We’ve seen the (local government) share deteriorate as the state budget crises has escalated. This is an area we need to shore up.”
Republican state Sen. Robert Pritchard said he would oppose taking money away Local Government Distributive Fund.
“I will fight against some of those efforts of stealing from you,” he said.
State Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora), who is vice chairman of the Labor Committee said she agreed with her Republican colleagues on many issues and would not call any hearings in her committee that are not related to passing a state budget.
“We all understand that what is destroying Illinois is this partisan battle,” she said. “We’re playing politics, and it’s impacting people’s lives.
“I was a small-business owner for 25 years, and I can tell you: There is nothing more harmful to small business than uncertainty,” she said. “A state without a budget is a poster child for uncertainty.”
Andersson said the hard truth is that the Local Distributive Fund had to be on the table as part of any discussion, underlining that a bipartisan solution is the only way the state can move forward.
“Our focus must be about our budget,” he said. “Compromise is not a dirty word. It is not about me getting my way or Democrats getting their way. Neither side is going to break, so there’s only one choice: A deal has to be struck that nobody likes. Do I want to raise revenues? No. Do I have the votes to stop it? No. So this is all about compromise.”