Legislative update: Quinn talks budget strategy, Obama prods Congress on ‘American Jobs Act’

Lori Clark
Lori Clark

In Springfield …

Gov. Pat Quinn held a press conference Thursday, Sept. 8, to discuss his Fiscal Year 2012 budget management strategy.

Quinn contends that the FY2012 budget approved by the General Assembly has a shortfall of approximately $313.5 million in operations and personnel across all state agencies, with the most severe deficiencies at the departments of Human Services and Corrections.

The governor talked about his three-phase strategy. Phase I, announced in July, canceled the automatic pay raises for approximately 30,000 state workers at 14 state agencies called for in collective bargaining agreements. A judge in Springfield last week upheld the Governor’s action last week.

Phase II, announced at the press conference, would close seven state facilities, resulting in 1,938 layoffs of state employees.

Those facilities are:

  • Tinley Park Mental Health Center;
  • Singer Mental Health Center;
  • Chester Mental Health Center;
  • Jacksonville Developmental Center;
  • Jack Mabley Developmental Center;
  • Logan Correctional Center; and
  • IYC Murphysboro (juvenile detention facility).

Employee layoffs would occur at the Department of Human Services (1,392), Department of Corrections (357), Department of Juvenile Justice (101), Department of Human Rights (23), Illinois Commerce Commission (41) and the Department of Agriculture (23).

Phase III, not yet announced, would make further cuts of $182.8 million.

“As serious as these actions are, they do not fill the deficit in personnel and state operations in the budget,” Quinn said. “After today’s action, DHS will still have a shortfall of more than $100 million; DOC will have a shortfall of more than $68 million. Many state agencies still have deficits even after the first two phases of this budget implementation.”

State facilities take time to close down and employees must receive proper notification before a layoff can take effect. It is believed that this is the governor’s signal to the General Assembly that they need to approve additional appropriations for FY2012 during Veto Session to keep these actions from taking place. Quinn had amendatorily vetoed $376 million from the FY2012 budget passed by the General Assembly, and he believes that a starting point in negotiations with the General Assembly would be to reallocate these funds to deal with some of the operational and personnel shortfalls.

On Monday, Sept. 12, the governor vetoed Senate Bill 1652, widely referred to as the ComEd bill, that was intended to implement Smart Grid technology, thereby improving service and reliability and helping to make Illinois a leader in the clean energy economy.

“The legislation would strike more than 100 years of Illinois consumer protection law and weaken the oversight ability of the Illinois Commerce Commission to reign in excessive rate hikes that will heavily burden consumers and disproportionately harm seniors, minorities and low-incomes households,” Quinn said. “Without adequate oversight and effective performance metrics, Illinois ratepayers will be forced to pay billions in rate hikes, while potentially receiving the same subpar service they have for many years.”

Supporters of SB1652 have indicated that they will work to have the General Assembly override the governor’s veto during Veto Session.

In Washington, D.C. …

Congress has returned from its August recess, and they had a busy first week back.

After six years, the Senate finally approved legislation (HR1249) overhauling the U.S. patent law, designed to speed the time between an invention and the start of manufacturing. It changes the basis for awarding patents from “first to invent” to “first to file.”

the American Jobs ActOn Wednesday, Sept. 7, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress and called for the rapid passage of “The American Jobs Act,” his plan to create jobs.

The plan includes tax cuts to help America’s small businesses hire and grow, putting workers back on the job while rebuilding and modernizing America, pathways to work for those looking for jobs, and tax relief for every American worker and family.

Obama stated that this $447 billion legislative package would not contribute to the nation’s deficit, although the details on how this plan would be paid for will not be released for a week or so.

There is virtually no chance of the president’s plan getting through Congress as he has proposed. However, he has indicated that he wants to sit down with congressional leaders to hammer out a bill that will help the economy grow and put people back to work.

It is likely that Congress, especially the House Republicans, will wait until the president releases his plan on how he proposes to fund this program – without increasing the deficit – before we have an indication of which elements might be feasible. A slight tempering of the intense partisanship that was evident before the break is leading some to believe that there could be more bipartisan efforts and compromise to try to deal with the nation’s tumultuous economy.

FY2012 appropriations bills are beginning to move. The Senate Appropriations Committee reported out FY2012 spending measures for Energy and Water Development, Homeland Security and Agriculture.

According to the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, both chambers are working on a Continuing Resolution to fund government beyond the Sept. 30 end of Fiscal Year 2011, with hopes of passing the CR by the end of next week. This stop-gap measure is expected to run through Nov. 18, and it would set spending levels at those agreed to in the recent debt ceiling legislation.

The first public meeting of the Deficit Reduction “Super Committee” was held Thursday, Sept. 8, with its first formal hearing today.

Recognizing the extremely short time frame in which they have to identify and agree to more than $1 trillion in additional deficit reduction measures by Thanksgiving, the committee is looking at various proposals and suggestions developed by other committees, such as the Gang of Six, the “Biden Group,” etc.

We are working with our national organizations to ensure that higher education’s voice is being heard during these deliberations.

The Voices section of NIU Today features opinions and perspectives from across campus. Lori Clark is director of State and Federal Relations for NIU.

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