House Passes $800 Million Stop-Gap Spending Bill

Rep Greg Harris (D) discusses details of the bill, as debate begins.

State Capitol – House Democrats on Thursday brought their $800 Million plus funding bill, HB-109, to the floor which passed after a debate that ran over an hour, which set the tone of pain and suffering of those who are owed money from the state, with arguments that those entities need immediate aid and cannot wait for a resolution to the political power struggle that has kept a full-year budget from becoming law for the last two years.

Colleges, universities, MAP grants recipients, and social service agencies would share in the $800 million, that is being pulled from a few special accounts, where the money was held.

In the House debate, Democrats argued consistently that this money was critical to keep the lights burning at various social service providers, for the students trying to determine if they can afford to go to school in the fall with a MAP grant [a MAP grant is Monetary Assistance Program].

But Republicans said every member of the House knows of the suffering of those owed money from the state. But “throwing out crumbs to starving people” is not the way to solve the problem.  The GOP House members noted that the legislature should be passing a full budget, not a series of financial bandages that prolong the state’s financial crisis.

Rep Steven Anderson, (R), said that when Republicans agreed to a six-month partial funding bill that was passed in July of last year, but ended on December 31, the Republicans were part of the effort to craft that bill.

Anderson noted that this bill, was put together entirely by Democrats, without consultation, and rushed through committee and to the floor within 24 hours of its being made public.

Anderson said, “When you rush things, mistakes are made.”  He then read a list of organizations who would be getting funds from this spending bill, HB-109, that he noted some of those getting funds are already out of business.  He said other organizations listed could not get the funds, because they are already out of compliance with financial reporting due from previous state funds.

Rep David Harris (R) told the House it can’t solve the state’s financial crisis with bills offering partial funding

Rep David Harris said that when you pass partial funds, you allow the pressure to come off those in government who are all hearing of the pain and suffering of their constituents.

Rep Harris said it was critical to keep the pressure on the legislature, because that is the only way anything gets done in Springfield, and passing a full budget was critical.  He noted that if the legislature failed to pass a full year budget, and approved only the amount of money in this spending bill, that the amount that would be going to higher education would be in effect a cut of nearly 60-percent of the money they should be getting.  Harris said that other recipients of funds would also suffer severe cuts, if a full budget was not passed.

Harris said that when you included the funds for higher education from both a previous partial funding bill, with the bill debated on Thursday, that the total of the two partial funding bills means the dollars going to the state’s colleges and universities would only amount to about 45-percent of what they would expect to receive from an annual budget.

After you pass this, What are you going to do then? Is the next crisis going to be whether our schools open?

Rep Jeanie Ives (R) noted that this $800 million, the amount being debated, could go to pay the $880 million owed to K-12 education in school districts across the state to pay for mandated categorical spending, which would include areas like the paying for school bus transportation of students. “Why don’t we pay their bills?  None of this is going to help K-12 education.”

She noted that next year the state’s pension obligation was going to be $8.8 BILLION next year, and that the increase in pension costs from the current year, is equal to the entire $818 million being debated in this bill. Ives argued that without a full budget, the legislature cannot get control of state spending, with so much of the state’s spending now being based on a court order.

Many of the Democrat House members noted that this was a partial funding, but that it was a financial “life-line” being thrown to organizations that have tried to continue operations, while waiting for months to get any funds owed from the state, and then to only get a partial payment.

This is a statewide life-line that will go to organizations and individuals across the state.

Rep Stephanie A. Kifowit (D), said that while this was being sponsored by a Democrat member, the funds in the bill would go to organizations across the state, in districts that are Republican as well as those represented by a Democrat.

The House voted to pass the bill, 64-45, with 8 not voting and one voting “present.”

Before the bill can become law, it will have to pass the Senate, but the Senate cancelled its Friday session, and is now gone for two weeks for its Easter break.

Gov Rauner has said that he would NOT sign another partial funding bill, unless there was language that offered some protection for taxpayers, such as the property tax freeze, that he has long argued for.