Now that voters have rejected the income tax amendment to the State Constitution to create a progressive tax structure, Illinois faces hard choices to balance the budget during the spring session of the General Assembly." class="wysiwyg-break drupal-content" src="/sites/all/modules/contrib/wysiwyg/plugins/break/images/spacer.gif" title="<--break-->">
GOP State Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington said he wants a conversation that is broader than just proposed cuts to education and social services. Barickman said cutting the budget has to be done in conjunction with reforms to grow the economy and the tax base, and make the state more business- friendly.
“The entire bureaucracy of our state government continues to need a look in overhaul, the public expects us to do that,” Barickman said in an interview with WGLT. “Bottom line is that there ought to be no stone left untouched on where we can cut the budget.”
Barickman said the conversation cannot just be budget cuts and tax increases.
“He’s (the governor) angry that his tax increase didn’t pass. He has lashed out at the public and he has threatened that he is going to decimate the state government,” said Barickman. “I think the public wants more on the reform side and that the public is willing to do more if the state government acknowledges the work that we need to do. And thus far, they’re not seeing it from Gov. Pritzker.”
Most economists say pro-business changes to government that might stimulate the economy would take years to have an effect. Budget balancing cuts would be required before then.
Barickman disagreed and said discussion of reform can lead to immediate results.
“Pension reform is an example of a reform that is necessary and there can be an almost immediate result from that,” said Barickman. “I think there is more we can do to make cuts within Medicaid. We’ve seen expansive growth. When the state adopted the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, the belief then was that the federal government was going to reimburse us for all of the liabilities or costs that we incurred. The federal government is not doing that to the level that they once did in any way. We continue to incur those costs.”
Barickman said more than $15 billion is allotted in the budget for Medicaid and is the largest line item in the budget.
“Line by line, I think the public expects us to play a part in reigning in the many line items that have grown over the years,” said Barickman.
LaSalle Veterans Home
Officials in Illinois have ordered an independent investigation into a coronavirus outbreak that killed 27 people at the state-operated LaSalle Veterans Home.
Barickman said this outbreak is unique and requires a deeper look.
“There has been a lot of attention placed on this as a result of last week’s hearing, but last week’s hearing didn’t really resolve the fundamental question of, ‘Why are we seeing unique numbers there that we are not seeing elsewhere?’ In fact, the director of Veterans’ Affairs for the Pritzker administration suggested that these are just trends being seen in LaSalle County or in the community,” said Barickman. “I think at first blush, that looks not to be the case. I think we need to do a deeper dive there.”
Pritzker has suggested the proper place for a deeper look is his own inspector general. Barickman said he thinks there needs to be an independent review for the public to be certain there is transparency.
“Some third party the public can have confidence in that is going to be above the fray in terms of making political assessments and political calculations and instead just focus on what occurred, what we know and what conclusions can be drawn from that,” said Barickman. “I think an independent review is the manner in which we get the answers people are asking.”
Many Republicans continue to be silent about who won the election and President Trump’s efforts to undercut the legitimacy of the results. But Barickman said that does not help the body-politic.
“President Trump had ample opportunity to present facts and evidence in courts of law and thus far we have not seen that from him,” said Barickman. “The democratic process relies on millions of people casting votes and having confidence that the outcome yields a winner for which the public and the world can have confidence in.”
Barickman said the duty of bringing forward facts rests solely on Trump.
Barickman said President-elect Joe Biden won the election and Trump needs to recognize that the transition is in process.
Illinois House speakership
Longtime Illinois Speaker Mike Madigan has said he has no intention of stepping down even after a federal indictment has nabbed four people alleged to have orchestrated a bribery scheme that benefitted Madigan. Barickman said Madigan still has a significant number of votes and the presumption is that those in the House who remain silent are with Madigan.
“There is at least one candidate out there, but we’ve not seen any Democrat step forward who legitimately presents themselves as a viable option that could garner the support of 60 Democrats in support of their bid,” said Barickman. “While Madigan doesn't appear to have 60 votes, he probably has a significant number. I think the Democrats are in for a difficult road ahead. Madigan has given no suggestion he is going to go away quietly. I’d presume he is going to pull out every trick in the hat to try and assemble the 60 votes that he needs. We will all sit on the outside with our popcorn watching this unfold, but the reality is that this is a really important decision that’s being made in the Illinois House of Representatives.”
Meanwhile, pressing issues like navigating COVID, ultimately distributing vaccines, wrestling state finances and all of those decisions require a speaker of the House.
“Right now all you see out of there is question marks, so really important conversation that is being had in the Democratic caucus,” said Barickman. “From the outside looking in, my only hope is that they choose someone we can work with and that will help as we wrestle these problems in our state down to the ground.”
Barickman said budget cuts will take up a lot of the oxygen in the spring legislative session. The other area Illinois needs to address is ethics, he said.
“We got to demonstrate to the public that we understand that Illinois has been plagued by corruption historically. It's plagued by corruption today. We need to do something about this," he said. "We’ve offered these ideas and a package of ethical reforms that thus far hasn’t seen the light of day with Democrats. I think the opportunity in the spring is to advance some of those measures and some of those good reforms in place.”
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