General Assembly returns for final marathon session
Legislators return to Springfield this week to consider bills passed by the other chamber and to craft a balanced budget by May 31. Some legislators have been vacationing in anticipation of the seven-day-a-week schedule in May while others of us have been traveling around our districts visiting with constituents about pending legislation, pension reform and spending reductions.
There is a fear among local service providers that budget cuts will end programs and raise income eligibility thus disqualifying many of their clients. A common feeling is that the most vulnerable will be the greatest to suffer.
The healthcare budget will take the biggest cuts under the plan to cut $2.7 billion from the current $9.3 billion Medicaid program. Among the program funding targeted for elimination next year is Medicaid hospice care. These patients are disproportionately minorities and low-income families. A scientific study found cutting hospice services will force them to more expensive care in emergency rooms and hospitals.
Parents receiving subsidized child care told me last week that lowering the income eligibility for the program will force many to quit work and others to drop out of college where they are developing skills to get better jobs. In both situations, these parents want to be contributing taxpayers and affordable child care is key to their dreams.
Still another group pointed out that amongst all the budget cutting is legislation that would increase the cost for the state to fully comply with federal sex offender registration. They point out that Illinois’ laws are already more strict than most states and full compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Act would cost more than any lost federal allotment.
The legislature must balance its budget, but those cuts must be made with an eye toward unintended cost increases and protection for the most vulnerable.
The Belvidere Chamber of Commerce recently shared news about a competition that encourages start-up business ideas which may stimulate our state’s economy. Any entrepreneurs, including high school and college students, are invited to pitch their ideas for new products, services or concepts in the sixth annual Stateline FastPitch Competition.
Participants get a chance to prove the potential of their business idea, meet people who can help them succeed and maybe even win a cash prize. The competition will be at the Northern Illinois University Rockford campus on June 20.
The program is made possible through the support of numerous regional organizations, the Illinois Technology Association, Rock Valley College and the EIGERlab. For more information and prequalification, visit www.eigerlab.org/events.
This is an excellent example of what the state should promote to solve our fiscal problems. Let’s grow the economy rather than talk of new taxes.
Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley, is the state representative for the 70th Legislative District, which includes most of DeKalb County. He can be reached in DeKalb at 815-748-3494, or online through his website, www.pritchardstaterep.com.
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