Rep. Jimenez Column: We Need to be in Session Working on the Budget

I represent a unique district on the west side of Springfield and Sangamon County – one with many dedicated state workers and many others who rely on the state for funding or services.  We also have folks who work at our hospitals and other medical facilities, social service agencies, many small businesses, universities and colleges, associations and local farms, governments, among others.  As I talk to residents in the 99th district, they tell me they want certainty from our state government, especially with a balanced, full year budget, and for us to work together. We all want stability and I am doing my best to make that happen. We need to move forward. I am doing my best to balance all of these interests for the good of the state and the good of central Illinois.

Members of the General Assembly worked together in June across the aisle and with the governor to formally end an 18 month long stalemate that had left Illinois languishing without a state budget. But our work on our Fiscal Year 2017 state budget is far from complete. The stopgap spending plan approved this summer to fund most state operations and services expires on December 31. If no new plan is in place by then, we will once again be without a budget.

I remain hopeful that we will agree on a new budget as well as a reformed path forward for our state before that deadline arrives. We need a balanced budget. We need a certain path forward for state workers and all of the people we serve. But I fear that as our legislative schedule now stands, we simply may not have enough session days between now and then to get the job done. Both the House and Senate have only six Veto Session days on our schedule in November and December. Keeping in mind that it took a year and a half to reach agreement on the current stopgap budget, it may be unrealistic to assume we can agree on a new budget plan in six short days.

To provide the General Assembly more time for budget consideration and negotiation, I have written to all four legislative leaders formally requesting that they consider bringing the House and Senate back into session at least once per month through the end of the year until a full-year budget is complete. If they do not, I have requested that the governor take action to call us back into session.

Setting a schedule that returns us to session each month will allow us to promptly review the budget and reform working groups' progress and begin to build a new budget plan piece by piece over a period of months, not days. It will also improve transparency in the process by providing lawmakers and the public more time to review spending, reforms and revenue proposals.

We all have seen the consequences to our families and community when no state budget is in place. Having the General Assembly in session each month will provide us the best opportunity to prevent that from reoccurring on January 1. Let’s get back to work in the Capitol.