The "Taxpayer Bargain" proposal made a significant step forward last week.
Fourteen pieces of the 18-bill package of government reforms and cuts, introduced April 26 by senators Kyle McCarter and Dan McConchie, have been assigned to seven Senate committees.
"The taxpayer bargain contains much of what we need to do to put Illinois back on track," State Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) said. "We need more jobs in Crawford County and across the state so families can prosper. We need more taxpayers, not higher taxes."
Sen. McCarter said it's a positive step forward for the only "live within our means" budget to be introduced in recent memory.
"We're going to have hearings on these bills and be able to present why the 'Taxpayer Bargain' is good for the State of Illinois and Illinois citizens," said McCarter (R-Lebanon).
Sen. McConchie said while the hearings are great news, the proposal needs bipartisan support.
"The only way something is going to pass the Senate and pass out of the House and get to the governor is if it has bipartisan support. And, this is something the people across the state have been saying, 'we want the parties to be working together and we want the leaders to work together.' This is a great opportunity to make that happen," said McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods).
The package covers public pension reform for lawmakers, state employees and educators. It provides relief from unfunded state mandates to ease the financial burden on local schools, colleges and universities. It also includes reforms to save tax dollars by reducing government spending, implements government reforms such as township consolidation and provides more autonomy for smaller communities with home rule authority.
Other government reforms include changes to the state's Medicaid program to ensure greater accountability and better value for the billions of taxpayer dollars that fund Illinois' most costly program.
An additional legislative measure allows short-term borrowing to pay off old bills to eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in extra penalties and fees that add to the burden borne by taxpayers. Other measures would create a statewide property tax freeze for education and give the governor more authority to manage spending and keep the budget balanced going forward.
McConchie and McCarter said the Senate hearings to come will be an opportunity to give taxpayers a voice in the budget process and for legislative sponsors to present a budget built on the financial reality that you can't spend more money than you take in - a lesson every Illinois family knows well.
"What the people of Illinois want is for us to do what every family does, which is to live within our means first," said McConchie. "Once you start doing that and make the cuts to the waste and inefficient parts of government, then we can begin to have the discussion about the future. We've not had that honest discussion to date and this (legislative assignments) is the first sign the Senate is willing to engage - in an honest way - about what the people of this state want."
"I'm looking forward to a very open and frank conversation about how these bills will lead to a balanced state budget without a tax increase so we can protect the taxpayers of this state today and lessen the tax burden on future generations," said McCarter.
The Senators say the "Taxpayer Bargain" represents the reality of Illinois' current fiscal crisis. They call it tough medicine for a very sick state. The plan prioritizes spending, recognizing the state's limited resources. It includes challenging cuts and an enforceable spending cap with no new or higher taxes. The package of legislation was created with bipartisan input and includes some pending legislation, sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats. Specific committee hearing dates and times have not yet been announced. Details of the "Taxpayer Bargain" are available on the Taxpayer Bargain website at www.taxpayerbargain.com.