State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, issued the following statement about the House passage of the Illinois State Budget in a press release:
“The fact of the matter is our state is penniless, flat out broke. Yesterday, the Illinois House voted to send Governor Rauner a budget which spends $3 billion less than if we were to continue operating without a state budget. In addition to passing a budget, the House approved a 1.25% income tax increase, a proposal I supported. The truth is, this wasn’t easy, I realize a tax increase isn’t popular. However, this was the viable option to keep our state government from shutting down and putting lives at risk.
“If the state continues to operate without a budget, it will result in adding more than $22.6 billion to Illinois’ deficit. This year our state government is on pace to spend almost $8 billion more than what is in the bank if we continue to operate without a budget. No budget for two years has resulted in $15 billion in unpaid bills.
“Here are the realities we faced that led us to the place we are at today:
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“1. If we had not acted, as the bond markets opened today, the state would be downgraded to junk status — the first time for any state in the entire country. “Junk” is more than just a clever name. With a junk rating, most institutions legally cannot buy our bonds. This makes our ability to borrow virtually non-existent which is essential to even keeping minimal state services functioning. Without funding, our universities and community college faced de-accreditation. This would gut our institutions of higher education which not only are commercial drivers in the state, supporting entire communities, but provide education and opportunities keeping our students in Illinois to help build the future of our state. Instead, those students would be uprooted in the middle of their education, and they would have to find alternatives, if that is even possible.
“2. The comptroller advises that starting in July the state’s cash-flow will enter a stage where we won’t have enough money to pay our core bills (these include items such as bond interest payments, state employees’ salaries or anything else) because we will only be paying back due bills. In other words, Illinois will have no money at all for expenditures, and being in junk bond status, no ability to borrow. Further, last week a Federal Judge ordered the state to prioritize payment of back due Medicaid payments to the tune of 600 million dollars a month in addition to everything else we are required to pay. It is not an exaggeration to say that there was the very real possibility that the state of Illinois would not be able to survive this added burden.
“The fiscal crisis we are faced with today didn’t happen overnight and I applaud the governor for working to turn our state around. If the legislature does not send reforms to improve the fiscal stability of our state, then I will support Governor Rauner’s amendatory vetoes of the budget we sent him Monday evening. I can’t sit back and watch our state continue to be a national embarrassment.
“I want to make this clear, I voted on the revenue and budget bill Monday because we can’t go another two years without a budget. I hope this will leave the door open for a compromise to be worked out that provides property tax relief, creates jobs or otherwise our Governor will and should veto this bill.
“In light of the estimated $22 billion deficit and $15 billion in unpaid bills we are faced with today, I made the best decision possible in order to keep the state of Illinois viable for our residents.
“As your Representative I was left with two bad choices and only two bad choices. I had to pick the least bad of the two choices. I chose to save the state first and continue to fight for reforms. The other option was unthinkable, and irresponsible. To allow the state to fail is not an option. If I voted to allow the state to fail, the damage would take years if not decades for our state to recover.
“I don’t anticipate this tax increase taking affect without major cuts and real reforms enacted for the taxpayers of this state. This may sound like a long explanation, and it is, I feel like I owe it to the taxpayers to let you know why I voted the way I did. I care about the future of our state.