A Northern Illinois state representative says raiding special funds to pay the bills helps the state avoid a necessary debate about its troubled finances.
Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a higher-education funding bill that allows the state to sweep $600 million from the state’s Education Assistance Fund. That fund is one of 700 different special funds the state has outside of the General Revenue Fund.
State Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, voted against the plan and said sweeping funds is not the answer.
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“Why are we allowed to just go into these lockboxes whenever we want, and if we are, then why don’t we just open the lockboxes and not have a debate about whether or not we have a revenue problem?” Drury said.
State Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Litchfield, agreed sweeping funds isn't the answer but said extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.
“But there’s an acknowledgement, too, that this is not a long-term fix,” Bourne said. “We cannot sweep funds and have this be our financial plan moving forward.”
An Illinois Senate committee is expected to take up a fund sweep bill to pay for social services.
Bourne hopes to vote on the measure in the Illinois House.
“Social service agencies certainly need help right now, and I’m supportive of it because it doesn't affect our deficit,” Bourne said. “We’re already spending more than we have.”
Drury asked what happens when the money is spent.
“So all this is doing is kicking the can down the road, probably getting us through 2016 without having a budget at all and no real solution going into 2017,” Drury said.