Additional money for Illinois courts will benefit local governments
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ judicial branch will use its first budget increase in six years in part to alleviate costs paid by local governments, court officials said.
This is the first time in almost 30 years the state’s courts were allocated the financial resources by the General Assembly to fully reimburse counties for salaries and probation services, an official said.
The Supreme Court, which has authority over all courts in Illinois, received an appropriation of just more than $405 million from the state’s main checking account. That is a bump of about $60.5 million from each of the previous five years, in which the judiciary had a flat budget.
“While substantial, this long overdue increase is hardly a windfall,” Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier wrote in a column on the Supreme Court’s Illinoiscourts.gov website. “Rather than fund new initiatives, it will be used primarily to catch up on existing financial responsibilities that have continued to rise even as our budget remained stagnant.”
Statute mandates the Supreme Court reimburse counties for probation costs. Instead of being locked in a jail cell, a person on probation is allowed to “contribute to their communities,” keep a job and maintain contact with their family, Kara McCaffrey, assistant director of Administrative Services, said. It is a period of supervision different from parole, which is overseen and paid for by the Department of Corrections.
“Because of shortening the judicial branch of their requested amounts, those shortages were passed on through probation back to the communities simply because the court has very limited options in their budget,” Rich Adkins, assistant director of Probation Services, said.
He added the judiciary was able to reimburse counties at 62 percent of what the law mandates due to the level of funding it received. With the new allocation, the rate will be 100 percent.
Protest at capitol
Catholic protestors rallied at the Illinois Statehouse Wednesday, Sept. 4, denouncing lawmakers’ recent expansion of abortion rights and potential votes to further that agenda.
Led by Father Edward Ohm, of the Diocese of Peoria and based in Lincoln, a group of about 30 met to ensure their legislators know they are “not in favor” of laws recently enacted by the General Assembly and Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, including the Reproductive Health Act and a package of tax increases.
The Reproductive Health Act created access to abortion, birth control, pregnancy benefits and exams, among other services, as a fundamental right, which means no level of government can infringe upon a man’s or woman’s access.
Ohm said his frustration first began when taxpayer-funded abortion became legal under former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. The RHA mandates private insurance companies regulated by the state to cover abortion procedures if they also cover pregnancy-related benefits.
He added he is opposed to the abortion rights legislators’ next initiative, repealing a statute that mandates minors consult their parents before getting the procedure.
Meanwhile, high taxes in Illinois, Ohm said, are “wrecking havoc on people’s lives.”
“Churches need people to help them when it comes to keeping the doors open on the weekends,” he said. “...The funds are not as plentiful as they used to be because more people are paying taxes and, on top of that, more people are moving out of state.”
Lawsuit vs. state
A Sangamon County Circuit Court judge last week declined to hear a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of two of the state’s general obligation bond issuances, but the lead plaintiff in the case has vowed to appeal.
John Tillman, CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank, filed a petition in July seeking permission to challenge the legality of bonds the state issued in 2003 and 2017, arguing they violated the Illinois Constitution’s requirement that such debt may be issued only “for specific purposes.”
At issue were $10 billion in “pension funding” bonds the state issued in 2003, early in Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration, and another $15.2 billion the state issued in 2017 to pay down debts owed by the state employee health insurance system. The latter was part of a budget package that ended the state’s historic two-year budget impasse which occurred under former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
At the time the lawsuit was filed July 1, Tillman asserted, roughly $14.35 billion remained outstanding.
Tillman, who filed the suit as a private citizen, and co-plaintiff Warlander Asset Management LP, a New York-based hedge fund that holds some of the outstanding bonds, sought an order to block the state from making further payments on the bonds.
“Despite Tillman striving mightily to do so, he cannot ignore the plain language of the statutes in question,” Circuit Judge Jack D. Davis II wrote in a four-page order. “Tillman’s proposed complaint is chock-full of conclusory and argumentative statements describing the financial condition of the state that are irrelevant and which the court must disregard. Indeed, it resembles far more of a political stump speech than it does a legal pleading.”
Tillman issued a statement late Thursday, Aug. 29, vowing to appeal.