EFFINGHAM — After passing a $35 billion budget last week, Sens. Kyle McCarter and Dale Righter told residents Wednesday it’s not enough to deal with the state’s mounting debt and further spending.sa
At a town hall meeting at Effingham City Hall, both Republican senators laid out problems with the state’s finances, job market and education funding when questioned by residents. Righter said those problems were considered when passing the budget but underlying issues are still causing problems for legislators.
“The biggest decision Springfield makes every year is how to spend the $35 billion it receives from hard-working taxpayers,” Righter said. “The budget that passed this year on a partisan basis spent $35.4 billion. On paper, it’s a balanced budget, It’s just not balanced in any sense of the word.”
Both senators placed the blame on Democratic leaders for problems with the budget, claiming a billion dollar inflation of expected revenue, as well as deferring $2 billion in payments and underfunding other programs.
McCarter acknowledged the relief many local educators looked forward to through a change in the education funding in Senate Bill 16, a bill which would have provided funding through weighted measures, giving schools with higher levels of poverty and students with special needs increased funding. He said the bill failed because of a last-second change that removed financial relief for state mandates, which was a major issue for educators.
“They were excited about getting more but the problem was the rug was pulled out from under them at the last minute,” he said. “The money was not there, including for the unfunded mandates. Instead, we have an alternative.”
The proposed Republican alternative for funding is based on fully funding education, increasing the equability of the state poverty grant to balance the way money is allocated in rural and urban areas, get rid of the Chicago block grant and provide financial relief for state mandates. McCarter also said he would support getting rid of driver’s education classes in schools in favor for privatizing the service, as well as lowering the state standards for special education students to put them more in line with the federal levels.