Senate passes nearly $4B spending bill

Also overrides ‘Heroin Crisis Act’ veto

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — With entirely Democratic support, the state Senate on Wednesday passed a bill to fund human service providers, to let road money flow through to local governments and to allow Illinois Lottery winners to be paid.

Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said the appropriations measure would authorize spending of $1.8 billion from general revenue funds for human services.

Additionally, it would allow $2 billion from other state funding sources, including motor fuel taxes.

Republicans opposed the measure, saying Democrats were just accelerating Illinois budget crisis by knowingly spending more money than the state will collect.

“So, the budget you passed in May was $4 billion out of balance, (and) we’re here four months later and now you want to put it $6 billion out of balance?” asked Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine.

Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, said while he didn’t vote for the budget offered by Democrats in May and later vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, the Legislature must proceed assembling a budget with appropriations first if need be.

To do nothing until the warring parties in Springfield break their impasse, he and other Democrats argued, would be to allow the devastation of Illinois human services infrastructure and the harming of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

“Let’s cut the self-righteousness, let’s all look inside of ourselves, let’s recommit to sitting down and working this (impasse) out, to solving it,” said Biss. “Until we get there, let’s not hurt people for no reason.”

Republicans weren’t buying that line of reasoning.

“Just appropriating money that isn’t there isn’t giving people comfort,” Murphy said. “It’s leading them down a path because someone’s not going to get the money.”

The Republican governor’s administration opposes the bill.

“Rather than pursuing this failed Groundhog Day strategy of putting unbalanced budgets up for a vote every few weeks, we urge Senate Democrats to come back to the negotiating table to pursue compromise, reform and a balanced budget,” one of the governor’s top aides said in a memo to Senators.

The measure, Senate Bill 2046, passed on a partisan roll call of 36-19. It now moves on to the House, where it will need 71 votes to pass.

While Democrats said reasonable people could disagree on how to fund human services, they argued that withholding motor fuel tax money for local road work and not allowing payments to lottery game winners of more than $25,000 was less than sensible. They argued the money to fund those items is being collected and can and should be paid out.

The state recently announced that because of the budget impasse, Lottery game winners of more than $25,000 would have to essentially settle for an IOU. Two winners have since sued.

Heroin crisis bill

With bipartisan support, the Senate on Wednesday overrode Gov. Rauner’s amendatory veto of House Bill 1, the Heroin Crisis Act.

The bill championed by Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, and cosponsors from both parties won overwhelming bipartisan support when it first passed the General Assembly.

However, it was red-penned by Rauner, who largely cited its potential cost to the state, which has been estimated at anywhere from $25 million to $60 million annually.

The Senate’s override vote, 44 to 11, follows last week’s House override vote, 105 to 5, and the measure now becomes law. It retains funding authority for heroin addiction treatment.

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