By Jamey Dunn, Illinois Issues
In the furor over the State's new income tax increase few noticed the Legislature passed a bill to change how state government does its budgeting. Under the measure, the state would be required to pay its debt obligations and annual required pension payments before allocating general revenue funds to any other area of the budget. Spending also could not exceed projected revenues for the year.
Under the plan passed two weeks ago, a number of grants administered by state agencies would be suspended as of July 1, 2012, unless the General Assembly enacts legislation to keep them in place. After 2012, legislators would have to approve grants every five years to keep them from expiring. The bill also would require the governor to name an advisory board to help him create an annual list of budget priorities.
“We are looking here at major budget reform — a way to control our spending, a way to get our pension payments made and our debt obligations before we divide up the budget,” said Rep. Carol Sente, the House sponsor of the bill.
Perhaps the most controversial section of the bill would prevent any executive officer from entering into a labor contract that would extend past his or her elected term. Union opponents said contract negotiations can take as long as two years, which could mean that they could potentially start talks with one governor and then reach an agreement with another.
The bill comes on the heels of a controversial deal that Quinn made with Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) near the end of his first term while he was campaigning for election. Sente said the legislation is a direct reaction to that deal, although Senate sponsor Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, said it's not. He characterized the provision as a sensible budgeting decision that would prevent a governor from locking a future administration into a pricey union contract.
A spokesperson for the governor said he planned to review the bill. It is unlikely, however, that he would approve it with a provision that limits his negotiating powers with unions.
You can read Jamey's full report at: http://illinoisissuesblog.blogspot.com/2011/01/controversial-budgeting-refroms-head-to.html