The Illinois legislature was called back to Springfield for a special session, convened by Governor Rauner, for the last ten days in June. They continued to work through the Fourth of July holiday and were able to pass a budget for the first time in three years. The news comes after lawmakers were unable to pass a budget, or any sort of spending plan in time for the July 1st start of 2017-2018 fiscal year.
Several of the original “grand bargain” bills were resurrected and amended in the House where they passed with bipartisan support. The Senate quickly followed suit. Governor Rauner responded by issuing a full veto on each of the budget bills. On July fourth, the Senate overrode the Governor’s veto and on July sixth, the House did the same.
The budget includes a mix of spending cuts as well as tax increases and addresses the state’s $15 billion in unpaid bills. The sugary beverage tax, although originally part of Senate Bill 9 (the revenue portion of the budget package) was NOT included in the final budget package.
We will continue to work with our partners on a statewide level to promote the sugary beverage tax proposal, we know this is a healthy option for the residents of Illinois and the State itself. Moving forward, Illinois will continue to need new sources of revenue and we are confident that this healthy option will remain an integral part of future health and revenue discussions.
Also tied up in the budget negotiations were repeated attempts to reduce or eliminate the daily Physical Education (PE) requirement in Illinois. PE is seen by some as an “unfunded mandate” and therefore a financial burden on school districts. Having successfully defeated several standalone pieces of legislation, including attempts to make PE optional in Illinois, we held off additional attempts to reduce PE from five days to three days a week and expand waivers for high school students. Many of these attempts were tied to other budgetary items and were being offered as negotiating tools. We will continue to monitor this issue and advocate for more quality PE for our kids.
Due to the ongoing stalemate, there was little desire to take up or debate items that were not budget related. Initiatives such as our Cardiac System of Care, which creates a seamless chain of survival for people experiencing a cardiac event, and Tobacco 21, which raises the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, continue to be policy priorities and will remain a part of our Illinois agenda moving forward.
At the Governor’s request, the General Assembly will reconvene on July 26 to further discuss school funding reform legislation. Depending on action taken during upcoming special session days, we may need your help to continue to maintain our daily physical education requirement in Illinois schools, please keep an eye out for P.E. alerts.
Thank you for all your support during this difficult political climate. We hope we can continue to count on you as we continue to work towards the mission of the American Heart Association.