Southern Illinois lawmakers preview upcoming session - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Southern Illinois lawmakers preview upcoming session

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WSIL -- Illinois lawmakers will return to Springfield for a new legislative session on Jan. 30, but will the contentious governor's race ruin any hopes of working together?

Southern Illinois politicians say there's just no avoiding it, especially since a couple of the candidates (Daniel Biss and Jeanne Ives) are lawmakers themselves, and because they have to work with the incumbent governor running for re-election.

"Unfortunately, we're going to have Chicago politicians tearing each other apart. It seems like they don't work as well up there as our downstate delegation does," said state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo.

Lawmakers say there's a lot to tackle this year.

For starters, there's the budget.

Some Republicans say the budget lawmakers passed last year is nearly $2 billion out of balance.

"Even though there's a budget, we have people that are hurting and that have needs that need to be met," said state Rep. Dave Severin, R-Benton. "So we've got to be realistic and address things that can help people go forward."

Lawmakers must also approve a budget for FY 2019.

Gov. Bruce Rauner says the new budget will include spending cuts, but he hasn't offered any specifics.

Rauner will deliver his budget address on Feb. 14.

Aside from the budget, lawmakers will focus on other issues important to them.

Severin wants to help business and tourism.

Schimpf wants to get the ball rolling on building a four-lane highway between Carbondale and St. Louis.

State. Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, is sponsoring multiple bills aimed at cutting waste, fraud and abuse in the state's welfare programs.

"With the new session approaching, I am working hard to shrink government spending and root out waste, fraud, and abuse," Bryant said. "Now that we have a budget in place for the first time in more than two years, I will be strongly advocating that Illinois stick to a tight financial diet far into the future. This is not merely lip service on my part. I am sponsoring specific policy proposals that could start saving our State money right away."

State Rep. Natalie Phelps Finnie wants to make sure the state renews the hospital assessment program.

She said without it, rural hospitals in southern Illinois will lose federal funding.

The deadline to renew the program is June 30th.

"It could be an unsurvivable hit if things aren't negotiated well, and that needs to be done quickly," warned Phelps Finnie.

The House was originally scheduled to start their session this coming Tuesday, but on Friday, the speaker delayed the start by one week.

The House and Senate will now return on Jan. 30th.
 

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