SPRINGFIELD, IL — When lawmakers return Tuesday, the Illinois Legislature has around five weeks to show taxpayers how their dollars will be spent. Details have yet to come into focus. But, lawmakers have been busy passing hundreds of bills off to the opposite chamber.
As Friday’s session commenced, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, said in a statement marking his first 100 days in office he’s making good on his promise of helping make the state better.
“In my inaugural address, I vowed that I would work with all members of the Illinois House to make this state better,” Welch said Friday. “While I understand we are one of the most diverse states in the country, we are all here to represent the people of Illinois and make their lives better.”
Others at the statehouse are growing frustrated.
During a marathon session Thursday, state Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, vented to the Democratic majority that many Republican measures are not advancing.
“We represent 5 million Illinoisans on this side of the aisle, 5 million, and our bills are being ignored. I’m sick of it,” Butler said as he threw his printed calendar across the House chamber. “Sick, sick, sick of it.”
He said the Democratic majority is hindering measures important to his district for political reasons.
It’s not just Republicans that feel they’re being left out. Other groups also feel slighted.
Paul Arena, director of legislative affairs for the Illinois Rental Property Owners Association, said they’re getting hit from all sides with various proposed regulations.
“The legislature has been relentless,” Arena said. “It’s one hostile action towards the housing industry after another.”
Illinois Sheriffs’ Association’s Jim Kaitschuk told WMAY “there’s an awful lot of bad legislation that continues to move through the General Assembly.”
“For whatever reason, they continue to move through the statehouse and unfortunately there’s not much back-and-forth with the Sheriffs’ Association on those issues,” Kaitschuk said.
While lawmakers pass a variety of measures impacting criminal justice, housing, employers, and more, still not clear is how the state will address ethics reforms, the state’s pension debt, the state’s continued population loss or even how to spend taxpayer money for the coming year.
Friday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker Budget Director Alexis Sturm was in front of a committee with their plan to close what the administration calls loopholes. All the proposals combined could cost taxpayers collectively nearly $1 billion.
State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, saw various proposals like limiting incentives for donating to school choice scholarships or incentives for construction jobs as things that will hurt the state, let alone feed an appetite for more state spending.
“Here’s another billion dollars, how much is enough?” Rose said.
“I don’t think there’s an answer to that this morning,” Sturm “I think it depends on what choices we make on what to spend tax dollars on.”
That spending plan is being crafted by working groups. It’s unclear when it will be available for public review.
Lawmakers have a May 31 deadline to pass bills, including a state budget, with simple majorities. They are set to return to Springfield on Tuesday.