$82 million in general revenue was eliminated in the new Senate Bill 2042, Amendment 3 that passed the House yesterday. The bill now goes back to the Senate and is expected to pass with the Governor’s support.
Illinois House OKs bill to spend federal aid after state money removed
By Doug Finke, State Capitol Bureau
Posted Aug. 12, 2015 at 11:39 AM
Updated at 11:17 PM
Illinois House Democrats backed off a plan to include state money in a bill authorizing spending of federal aid, resulting in the chamber approving a so-called clean bill Wednesday that will provide billions in assistance for a wide variety of human services programs.
The bill now goes back to the Senate, which must approve additional federal spending added by the House, some at the request of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration.
Rauner, who called the addition of state dollars to the bill a “poison pill,” praised Wednesday’s House action.
“The governor supports a clean bill that allows the state to pass through federal funds without adding to the state’s budget deficit,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in a statement. “He is pleased to see the House pass legislation that does exactly that.”
Approval of the bill came after an hour of contentious debate in the House where Republicans accused Democrats of playing politics because the Democrats knew they didn’t have enough votes to pass the bill with state money included. Republicans said Democrats were attempting to get a vote that showed Republicans opposing funding for human services programs.
“We’re playing out this clown act once again while the bill we’re actually going to vote on is being made up in the back room,” said Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin. “I can’t even make this stuff up.”
In fact, even as the debate went on, Democrats prepared an alternate version that eliminated state money from the bill.
Democrats, though, said the state risked losing hundreds of millions in federal assistance if state money wasn’t added to the bill. In some cases, the federal programs require state matching funds, and in others, require a certain state outlay over the course of a year in order to qualify for full federal aid.
The state money was added for things like breast and cervical cancer screenings, early childhood intervention programs, child care assistance and home-delivered meals for seniors. At a Statehouse news conference, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said he took “great exception” to Republicans calling state money for those programs a poison pill.
The House voted 52-2, with four voting “present” on the version of the bill that included state money. The bill needed 71 votes to pass. Most Republicans in attendance simply didn’t vote for the bill.
After the state money was removed, the chamber approved the federal-only spending bill on a 98-0 vote.
The House added about $435 million in additional federal spending for education and homeland security grants that was left out of the original version. Those changes must still be approved by the Senate when it returns to Springfield next week.
In all, the bill will now allow the state to spend about $5.2 billion in federal aid, even though lawmakers haven’t agreed on an overall state budget. It includes low-income energy assistance, job-training programs, the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, alcohol and substance abuse programs, rural health centers, AIDS/HIV prevention and home-delivered meals for seniors.
While the legislature may approve spending federal money, lawmakers appear no closer to agreeing on a budget to spend state tax dollars. At the same time, a substantial part of what would be in a state budget is being spent even without a spending plan in place. A series of court decisions and existing laws requires the state to continue spending money even with no budget in place.
Republicans have complained that no one knows exactly how much money is being spent. They’ve said the state could be spending more money than anticipated tax collections this year.
Madigan said that’s why the House Revenue Committee is starting to hold hearings to determine just how much is going out the door during the budget impasse.
“We may be close to 100 percent of what revenue the governor estimates will be available this year,” Madigan said.
The House is not scheduled to return to Springfield until Aug. 25.