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From Sen. Bill Brady

[JUNE 4, 2004] 

Lack of leadership sends legislature into overtime

A lack of leadership by Illinois' Democratic leaders has sent the spring 2004 session of the General Assembly spiraling into overtime after lawmakers failed to complete their business by midnight May 31.

Despite efforts by Senate Republicans, the Senate adjourned in the early morning hours of June 1 without passing a budget that will pass muster in the House or passing legislation that will resolve the state's medical malpractice crisis. It was the second adjournment deadline that lawmakers missed; Democratic leaders had set an initial deadline of May 21.

The only way to describe this process is "utter chaos." It's hard to believe we have been in Springfield all weekend and accomplished nothing. When it comes to that, it is hard to believe we have been in session since January and have not resolved these very important issues. Instead, we are trying to decide matters of extreme importance to Illinois citizens in the matter of a few hours.

Democrats strong-arm budget vote

During the late evening hours of May 31, Senate Democrats forced through a budget bill -- without Republican support -- that significantly increases the tax burden on businesses in Illinois; continues last year's onerous tax increases on businesses and local governments -- increases that have driven 39,000 jobs out of the state; cuts funding for important transportation programs; closes the prison in Vandalia, while funding a prison in Thomson for just six months; slashes funding for the Pontiac prison by half despite no public hearings on the issue; and severely underfunds pension systems for state employees and retirees -- more than $127 million below the funding level required by law.

Senate Democrats also forced through legislation -- without Republican support -- that raids $475 million from 98 special funds targeted specifically for such things as fire protection services, oversight of doctors and pharmacists, loan programs for farmers and agribusinesses, and grants to local governments for developing lands for public outdoor recreation purposes. Raiding special funds is risky because they are only one-time revenues.

 

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Democrats flout rules

What was particularly appalling about the budget votes May 31 was the manner in which Senate Democrats stifled debate on this very important issue. Microphones were cut off when Republicans voiced concerns the budget was too heavy on new spending, raided important state funds and would impose job-killing tax increases on businesses. And when we requested a routine vote verification, Senate Democrats completely ignored us.

In the years I have served in Springfield, I have never seen such a disregard for the rules and such a display of arrogance. Each lawmaker in Illinois is duly elected by his or her constituents and has the legal right to speak on their behalf. Apparently Senate Democrats do not agree and have taken the rules into their own hands. Their behavior is unconscionable.

Malpractice crisis remains unresolved

The power plays and posturing have also left unresolved the issue of comprehensive malpractice legislation that includes meaningful medical reform, court reform and insurance reform. Skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance premiums are forcing Illinois doctors to move their practices out of state or to retire. The victims, however, are the patients facing decreased access to quality care. In some areas of the state there are no neurosurgeons, and many ob-gyn physicians are limiting their practice to lower their insurance costs.

What does this mean?

It is a mess. Unfortunately the Democrats adjourned both chambers. With the members back in their districts, the pressure is off. This leaves the state to flounder. The next deadline is June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. If we do not pass a budget by then, we will be unable to pay our bills and payroll in July. Let's hope public pressure calls us back to do our jobs and negotiate a better bipartisan budget.

[From Sen. Bill Brady]

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