Senators debate Unbalanced Budget Response Act; and more from INN Radio

Senators debate Unbalanced Budget Response Act

The governor’s preferred path for the coming fiscal year is to pass reforms to grow the economy. If that doesn’t happen, Plan B would allow for the governor to unilaterally cut from some areas and sweep funds to make up any shortfall.

During a Senate Executive Committee hearing Wednesday, senators debated details about the so-called Unbalanced Budget Response Act. Democrats raised concerns about several provisions, including allowing the governor to cut higher education and other areas while holding the Road Fund and primary and secondary education funding safe.

Republican Sen. Christine Radogno said Republicans are willing to modify the measure, but something has to be done to find reforms and grow the economy.

“We’ve got to come together or this is the only path we have,” Radogno said, “because there is not money to write those checks.”

Sen. Lightford: Reforms and revenue needed

Members of the governor’s staff said they’re ready to negotiate on reforms they say will grow the economy as Plan A to avoid the unpopular Plan B. Democratic state Sen. Kimberly Lightford said the compromise should include both new revenues and reforms.

“So while you want reforms, you need to also be putting revenue on the table,” Lightford said “and I have not heard any revenue ideas from no one.”

Members of the governor’s staff said Plan B would be necessary only if talks on a balanced budget and proposed reforms break down.

Groups representing public transit, municipalities and hospitals decried the measure as something that could cause them to reduce services or increase rates.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he would rather foster economic growth through reforms than usher in severe cuts and fund sweeps.

The state’s next fiscal year begins July 1. Meanwhile Illinois has lurched along for more than eight months of the current fiscal year without a full budget in place.

Measure to reopen state museum moves out of committee

It’s round two for an attempt to reopen the Illinois State Museum in Springfield and branch locations throughout the state after a state senator put forth a new measure he says is in line with the governor’s amendatory veto of a previous measure.

Democratic state Sen. Andy Manar says his new attempt to open the facilities that have been closed since October matches up with changes Gov. Bruce Rauner offered in an amendatory veto. Changes include allowing for the facilities to charge admission as a way to generate revenue for operations.

“The Department (of Natural Resources) has the ability to do that today through rule,” Manar said, “but that takes some time, so the bill would allow the director to set an admission fee, which was contained in the governor’s veto.”

The measure would also create a closer relationship between museum operations, local governments and the Illinois State Museum Society.

“The goal of the bill is to take the governor’s amendatory veto language, put it in legislation and present it to the Senate,” Manar said, “and hopefully this will lead to reopening of the State Museum.”

Leading Republican state Sen. Matt Murphy applauded the new bill as a sign both sides can come together to find meaningful solutions. A representative from the Department of Natural Resources said the department supports the proposed measure, which now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

In a cost-savings move, the governor closed the museum in October and urged lawmakers to find a funding source to offset taxpayer subsidies for the operations.