Yesterday, the Illinois General Assembly reconvened in Springfield for a special session to address the state budget crisis. As you know, the State of Illinois has gone over 700 days without a budget, putting our schools in a state of turmoil, adding billions of dollars in state debt, devastating human service programs, eroding higher education and resulting in a bond rating just above junk bond status.
In the past two years, the bill backlog has grown from $4.6 billion to $15 billion, Illinois’ credit has been downgraded 9 times, and five of our public universities’ credit ratings have reached junk status. As the state’s fiscal health deteriorates, our most vulnerable citizens have seen a drastic reduction in services. Every one of the sexual assault survivor and prevention service centers in Illinois have had to cut services or lay off staff. Over 84,000 seniors have lost meals on wheels and/or home and community-based services. More than 100,000 low-income college students have lost MAP grants, jeopardizing their ability to complete their degrees.
Without a budget, our schools won’t open in the fall. Road projects in progress will come to a halt. Our debt will skyrocket.
I cannot overstate how critical it is that we pass a full and balanced budget before the end of the fiscal year, June 30th. We cannot settle for another stopgap budget, which will just continue the downward spiral and result in irreversible damage to our State’s fiscal health.
The Senate has already taken an important step forward and passed a full and balanced budget, but the Governor announced he would veto it before it could be considered by the House. I commend my Senate colleagues for taking this important vote, and hope we can build on their efforts. My job is to pass a budget, and I am committed to voting in favor of a balanced plan which contains a mix of revenue, spending cuts and necessary reforms.
At this point, any budget deal will require a three-fifths majority to pass - requiring both Democratic and Republican votes to get to the Governor’s desk. To accomplish this, we need compromise and political courage from all sides. I am committed to doing my part to make it happen, and will keep you updated as things develop.