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Appropriations

  • Lightford has “deep concern” over latest revelation of Rauner mismanagement

    Assistant Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford

    Failing $94 Million Online Healthcare Contract Excludes Minority Business Opportunity

    SPRINGFIELD — Chair of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) today expressed deep concern over an Associated Press report that suggests that Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration took action to purposely exclude state guidelines aimed at encouraging minority-owned business opportunities in an effort to steer a nearly $100 million taxpayer-funded contract to a private company that is charged with creating online efficiency in state employee health insurance processing.

    The news story, published on Sunday, highlights that the system was hastily designed and has caused serious difficulties in managing health care records of potentially hundreds of thousands of public employees and retirees. In addition, the investigation exposes the Rauner administration’s efforts to award the massive contract to Georgia-based company Morneau Shepell in what appears to be a favored contractor:

    “Documents show CMS staff members were told to proceed without following guidelines for ensuring minority-owned business participation,” the AP story says.

    “Bruce Rauner might have purchased the Illinois Republican Party, but he doesn’t own the State of Illinois,” Lightford says. “It’s outrageous to discover that he thinks it’s perfectly legitimate to misuse the trust of taxpayers to skirt rules aimed at giving all qualified businesses an equal playing field.”

    Lightford says she is discussing the possibility of utilizing part of Governor Rauner’s 10-day Special Session mandate to conduct a hearing on the failures of the Morneau Shepell contract as well as the procedures and decisions for discarding procurement rules.  

    “I don’t care if Bruce Rauner doesn’t like the long-established requirements to include and consider minority and woman owned businesses, I care that he decided to simply discard them,” said Lightford. “There’s a need for accountability here and I suspect questions will need good answers. We should do that in a public hearing, not behind the Governor’s preferred closed doors.”

    Throughout the past six months a number of news investigations have highlighted serious flaws in the judgement of Rauner officials when it comes to hiring and contracting. Already, the Illinois Senate Appropriations Committees have held in-depth hearings on what appear to be multi-million dollar insider leasing schemes to store supplies like paper in private warehouses.

  • State’s workplace safety programs operating with vacancies, backlogs

    Sen. Pat McGuireSPRINGFIELD —State Sen. Pat McGuire challenged the Illinois Department of Labor to fulfill its grave responsibility to protect Illinois workers from injury and illness on the job in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Wednesday.

    In questioning the Illinois Department of Labor’s Acting Director Anne Hui, McGuire called attention to unfilled positions in the state’s workplace safety consultation and enforcement programs and the fact the department is on track to resolve fewer workplace safety cases this year than in past years.

  • Trotter reappointed as Chair of Illinois Senate Appropriations Committee

    trotter bodycamsSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Donne Trotter (D-Chicago, 17) returned to his former position as the Democratic Chairman of the Illinois Senate Appropriations II Committee last week.

    “Senate Democrats continue to believe that adequate funding for education, health care and services for children and seniors must be of the utmost priority. As the new chair, I look forward to creating bipartisan solutions to end the budget impasse our state is currently facing,” said Trotter.

    Few others understand Illinois state government as well as Trotter, a veteran of the General Assembly for over two decades. The budget expert served as a long-time chairman of the Senate Appropriations I committee.

    Throughout his career, he has worked to reduce unnecessary spending, encouraged streamlining of state services and earned a reputation of evenhandedness in difficult negotiating circumstances.

    In addition to leading the caucus’ budget debates, Trotter serves in the Executive, Energy and Public Utilities committees and the Senate Subcommittees on Gaming, Governmental Operations and Oversight of Medicaid Managed Care.

    The Chicago-educated, Cairo native has consistently stood up for people who rely upon public health and social services across Illinois.

  • Jones votes for MAP grant and federal pass-through funds

    jones map fedEvery year, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission helps more than 125,000 students throughout Illinois advance their career dreams by helping them pay for college. The Monetary Award Program is designed to help eligible students who may not have enough money to pay for higher education go to a higher education institution, as long as they meet guidelines outlined by the grant. Without Governor Rauner’s approval, students statewide won’t be able to afford college tuition and other associated costs.

    State Senator Emil Jones III’s (D-Chicago) district houses Chicago State University and he believes Governor Rauner needs to make the appropriation of state funds to the grant program a priority.

    “Not every family has the means to send their child to school,” Jones said. “And there are many students who have the ability to go to college, receive a degree and be prepared to enter the workforce. We must ensure we give these students who are looking for a hand up and not a hand out an opportunity to reach their goals and contribute back to our communities. Funding this program is a no-brainer. If we want a vibrant economy, we need a workforce prepared for the challenges of tomorrow. Funding this program ensures economic vitality in the future.”

    Senator Jones also voted in favor of Senate Bill 2042, which allows $5.4 billion, mostly in federal “pass-through” funds, to be appropriated. Illinois receives these funds through the federal government, but aren’t able to spend them unless lawmakers give the state the authority to spend it.

    The federal pass-through will fund programs for mental health, disability services, meals for homebound seniors, job training and LIHEAP.

    Senator Jones offered the following comment:

    “Providing our most vulnerable citizens with the resources they need to have quality living conditions is one of the greatest purposes of government,” Jones said. “We put programs in place to help people who are in the most need. Providing spend authority for federal money is responsible and by doing so, we put people before political agendas.”

  • Bennett pushes for MAP grant appropriations

    map grant mrCHAMPAIGN- As college students begin to head back to campus, State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is circulating a petition to urge Illinois lawmakers to pass funding for an important state aid program.

    “I urge legislators to put politics aside. These students are real people with real lives. We cannot afford to jeopardize their futures,” said Bennett.

    Monetary Award Program (MAP grants) cannot be given to students until there is a state budget. More than 100,000 students across Illinois rely on MAP grants to afford higher education.

    Some schools are unable to absorb the tuition cost while the budget impasse continues and are asking students to pay partial fees upfront as they wait for the budget impasse to end. Bennett doesn’t want students discouraged from returning to campus due the lack of promised financial aid.

    “If these students could afford to absorb tuition costs and fees, they wouldn’t have qualified for state assistance in the first place,” said Bennett. “College affordability is a defining component in our state’s policies. We need to be working toward giving our young people the tools to graduate with success, not forcing them to miss out on valuable opportunities.”

    Lawmakers will return to Springfield to take up legislative action on Wed., Aug. 19. Bennett will work with lawmakers to authorize funding for MAP grants.

  • Senate Democrats to push through MAP grant appropriation

    map grant mrSPRINGFIELD - In an effort to break the impasse over funding for financial aid for qualified college students, Illinois Senate Democrats announced Friday they intend to take up a student aid budget next week.

    “The longer the state goes without funding MAP grants, the greater damage to Illinois students, families, colleges and universities. Governor Rauner is risking the economic future of hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans who want to improve themselves and our state,” said Senator Pat McGuire, chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee.

    More than 100,000 students return to campuses across Illinois in the coming weeks who rely on the state's Monetary Award Program to afford higher education.

  • Van Pelt proud to support federal appropriations passed by Illinois Senate

    pvp fedfundsSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) is pleased to have had the opportunity to vote in support of an Illinois General Assembly bill that approved federal appropriations for a variety of state programs, totaling over $7.65 billion.

    Senate Bill 2042 allows the state government to spend federal money on an assortment of programs. Included in the federal funding are dollars for community block grants for municipalities, family and community services including the WIC program, as well as funds to help homeless veterans, continue with breast and cervical cancer screenings, and home-delivered meals for the Department on Aging.

    “With the passage of this legislation, a large portion of our state budget will be funded. Many of these important programs were in danger of closing due to the current budget impasse. I’m proud to have been in Springfield to vote for this legislation and I’m very pleased it has passed the Illinois Senate,” Senator Van Pelt said.

    The legislation comes as the Illinois General Assembly and the governor’s office continue negotiations on a new state budget. The governor vetoed the appropriations legislation sent to him by the General Assembly in May that would have avoided the current stalemate.

    Senate Bill 2042 will now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

    “I urge my colleagues in the House to pass this legislation to help keep these valuable state services continuing and also urge the Governor to sign the bill into law once it gets to his office,” Van Pelt said.