SPRINGFIELD – Earlier this week, State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) called on her fellow Republican lawmakers to reject funds for projects being made available to the Democrat and Republican caucuses from the FY 2019 budget. The same day, three GOP lawmakers announced thousands of dollars coming into their districts – funds being made available from the Governor's Office of Budget Management.
After Illinois Review's story was published, we heard from three lawmakers – Ives, Breen and Morrison. Breen and Morrison wanted to clarify that the projects they announced were not being financed by the FY 2019 budget, but that the $11.3 Million in project funds they announced had been promised in years past.
Rep. Ives told Illinois Review her challenge to reject funds was focused on FY 2019 budget funded projects, not previously-promised projects.
"I received a call a few weeks ago, saying $15 million was being freed up from this year's budget. I was told I could submit requests for funding for district projects up to $400,000," she said. Ives said after asking more questions, she realized that the funds would be coming from this year's unbalanced budget that she voted against.
"I voted against the budget because it was not balanced," Ives said. "I could not accept funds from an unbalanced budget. I challenged my colleagues to reject the funds, too."
Morrison told Illinois Review that although he announced receiving funds for his district's Harper College, those particular funds had been in process for years – and he had not requested them.
"I remember when I first ran for office in 2011, the people are Harper showed me what they needed for the building. The funds we were notified about for Harper College must have been in the works from before then," he said.
Morrison said the state's financial condition is a serious issue, and one that he is very concerned about.
"I voted against this year's budget, and I agreed with Rep. Ives' thought that we shouldn't submit requests for projects from this year's unbalanced budget," Morrison told Illinois Review. He didn't put in a request for a share of the $15 Million.
Morrison said he understands his constituents' frustration because taxpayers in the northwest Cook County area sends so much property tax dollars to Cook County and get so little back for their contributions. "These funds are a smidgen of what they send to the county," Morrison said. "I can see both sides of the argument."
Breen said as he understood the confusion that arose and that the project funds his office announced had been previously requested – before he came into office.
Ives told Illinois Review there is no transparency surrounding how the current requests will be distributed, and that the way the current funds are being distributed should be made public.
There's no question that Illinois' financial situation is dire, and the state's finances are voters biggest concern, a new Illinois Broadcasters Association survey released Thursday says: