This spring, the General Assembly made significant progress in restoring financial stability to the state budget. Now that we are adjourned for the summer, I will continue making every possible effort to protect vital services and improve human rights for all Illinois citizens as the new budget is implemented.
Faced with an ongoing and dire financial crisis, our top priority was stabilizing the state budget to preserve the services that Illinoisans rely on. With strict spending limits in place, difficult cuts had to be made to ensure that our most vulnerable residents receive the assistance they need. We spent countless hours going through the budget line by line to cut waste, fraud, duplication and failing programs to limit the impact on residents. These cost savings will help keep the state afloat.
The House adopted spending caps to make sure government lives within its means, pays off $1.3 billion in old bills and passes a balanced budget. The first cut approved, House Bill 3810, cut legislators’ salary by requiring us to work 12 days without pay, and blocking pay raises for elected officials. I supported this measure, saving taxpayers nearly $1 million and leading by example in a year where nothing was spared from the chopping block.
As a member of the Public Safety Appropriations Committee, I fought to develop a responsible budget that maintains crucial funding for Adult Transitional Centers, drug treatment, Ceasefire, and other violence prevention initiatives. These programs are crucial to recidivism prevention, and will save a substantial amount of money in the long term.
To continue to protect essential services while reining in state spending, the General Assembly made sweeping reforms to Medicaid, the state’s health care system for seniors, individuals with disabilities and low-income residents. For years, out-of-state residents and those who don’t qualify for Medicaid services have received benefits that end up costing every Illinois taxpayer. By eliminating cases of those with out-of-state addresses, incomes over the Medicaid income threshold, and those who are deceased, the state is expected to save $350 million alone.
Our health care system was in danger of collapsing upon itself if we didn’t make these reforms, and it was shocking to learn of the abuse and fraud that has taken place by some at the expense of honest taxpayers. The changes we made will make sure that the health care system that was created to serve those most in need still exists for them.
To further provide health care access for low-income residents, I also sponsored and passed legislation that would require hospitals in Illinois to provide free, medically necessary health care for uninsured patients whose family income is 200% of the Federal Poverty Level or lower.
While great strides were made in getting state finances on the right track, this spring, several bills were introduced to challenge women’s access to health care and posed serious threats to a woman’s right to choose. These bills, which were heard in the agriculture committee, would have placed onerous regulations on women’s health centers designed to unfairly put them out of business, and require unnecessary medical procedures. I strongly opposed these bills and successfully fought them every step of the way, and helped stop them from passing.
I am still eager to strengthen civil rights for all Illinoisans. This spring, I introduced House Bill 5290 to prevent bullying at schools. The measure was intended to avoid the lifelong devastation that bullying has on children of all orientations. The proposal, which passed the House, ran into a roadblock when opponents in the Senate raised concerns that the plan was a disguise to promote a pro-gay agenda. House Bill 5170 to legalize same sex marriage in Illinois also remains under consideration.
It is truly disappointing that in the 21st century in America, members of the LGBT community are still considered second class citizens. A majority of Americans now favor marriage equality, I am hopeful that my colleagues will do the right thing in joining our efforts to afford equal rights to all those we represent.
I worked on several other initiatives this year, including improvements to the firearm owners identification card system, Special Service Area tax district reform, foreclosure reform and many others. Details on legislation I sponsored and worked on this year can be found on my website. As we approach the next legislative session, I welcome your input and suggestions for ways we can improve our community together.
The legislature will reconvene for a fall veto session, at which time I hope to advance these issues of social equality and justice. Additionally, a special session may be called over the summer to address pension reforms after negotiations failed to produce a successful proposal.
In the meantime, I am glad to be back in the district and look forward to seeing you around the neighborhoods. I always welcome you to reach me at my constituent service office at 5533 N. Broadway. Please feel free to stop by, call (773) 784-2002 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
It has been an honor to serve you this past year and I will always fight with you and for you.