Hammond: Explaining my ‘no’ vote on the ‘lifeline’ bill

MACOMB –Assistant House Minority Leader Norine K. Hammond (R-Macomb) issued the following statement after the passage of HB 109, also known as the “lifeline” bill:

“I want to make it abundantly clear to all of the citizens of the 93rd District my reason for voting ‘no’ on HB 109. First, let me address the timeline for context. The amendment, which became the bill, was filed less than 24 hours before it was voted on in committee and on the House floor. In that time, I quickly read the bill and our research staff did an on-the-fly analysis of the funds that would be appropriated as a result of the bill’s passage.

On the morning of April 6, my intention was to vote ‘yes’ on HB 109 because at the time all I knew was our state universities need operating funds and Illinois college students need MAP grants. After being able to assess the funds that would be appropriated, a few key elements ultimately shaped my vote. In regard to the funds that would be appropriated to higher education (including MAP grants), all of this money in the bill is appropriated from the Education Assistance Fund. Moreover, based on our estimate, if the money gets appropriated (i.e., assuming it passes the Senate and the Governor signs the bill), the fund would break even by the end of the fiscal year. On this point, I wanted to vote yes.

The bill didn’t just appropriate funds for higher education, though; the bill also appropriated money to social services. This would not have been an issue if this bill was not drafted in haste. There were programs that were being funded in this bill that do not exist. Let me repeat that: millions of taxpayer dollars would be appropriated to programs that do not exist. Additionally, and unfortunately, the social services portion of this bill is underfunded by over $60 million. And, if this bill were to pass into law, this means the millions of dollars going to non-existent programs won’t be able to go to the social services and programs not included in this bill from the start.

Even more concerning, the Senate had already adjourned by the time the House voted on the bill. This wouldn’t be a problem except that the Senate is not scheduled to return until April 25. At that point, they could take up the bill and pass it. However, we would all be foolish not to think what the Governor would do if the bill passed the Senate. The Governor has already vowed to veto this bill. I am not pointing this out to say that we shouldn’t pass bills that the Governor doesn’t like; I am pointing this out because if the Governor vetoes the bill and it comes back to the House and then the Senate, so much time will have been wasted over a bill that could be so much more comprehensive. Simply put, a reasonable, compromise budget that truly funds higher education, social services, services for seniors, and so many other worthy state services and programs has just been delayed as a result of this bill’s passage in the House.

I remain ready and committed to working with any and all members of the General Assembly, who want to take this process seriously, on a comprehensive, compromise budget that adequately funds all of the state’s vital services. I only hope that this can be accomplished sooner, rather than later.”

Hammond represents all or part of Brown, Cass, Fulton, Knox, Mason, McDonough, Schuyler and Warren counties.