Moeller: 'Extreme partisanship' in Springfield not helping Kane County

  • Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen shared a few thoughts with state Rep. Anna Moeller as she visited the board's legislative committee Wednesday. Moeller discussed the state budget impasse and the Ecker Center for Mental Health.

      Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen shared a few thoughts with state Rep. Anna Moeller as she visited the board's legislative committee Wednesday. Moeller discussed the state budget impasse and the Ecker Center for Mental Health. James Fuller | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/19/2015 7:23 PM

Malnourished senior citizens, underserved children with autism and underfunded women's crisis centers are important reasons the state must overcome its budget impasse, state Rep. Anna Moeller said Wednesday. But an inability to agree on workers' compensation, property tax freezes and tort reform are daunting hurdles preventing any compromise.

Moeller delivered that grim message to Kane County Board members during a visit with the board's legislative committee. Democratic board members asked Moeller for power, if not money, to perform the county's mandated functions.

 

Republican board members pressed Moeller for any areas where her fellow Democrats may accept Gov. Bruce Rauner's legislative agenda.

Moeller said "extreme partisanship" has gummed up the functions of state government on an "unprecedented level."

"We are very far apart," Moeller said of the gap between Rauner's proposals and the spending plans approved by the Illinois House and Senate. "We make light of it, but it's a very serious situation that we don't have a state budget in place. I hear from child care providers and mental health providers all the time about the extreme situations they are in."

Moeller pointed specifically to the Ecker Center for Mental Health in Elgin. She said the outpatient mental health provider is surviving by burning through reserve funds to run its operations. Those funds won't last long, and the drawdown on savings will affect the future of the organization.

"I think everybody on both sides of the aisle, including the governor, all understand that this is not good for the state," Moeller said. "People are suffering. It's just a matter of sitting down and reaching a compromise and moving away from very hardened positions. It seems like we do make a little bit of progress, and then we move back."

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One area of optimism is workers' compensation reform. It's one of the key planks in Rauner's platform.

He wants to make it harder for injured workers to win claims against private employers and cap injury compensation claims for the public sector. Moeller said Democrats believe there are already reforms on the books, dating back to legislation approved in 2011.

Recent hearings revealed insurance rates should be 14 percent lower because of those reforms, Moeller said, but insurance companies are pocketing those savings.

A fledgling idea is to create a state certifying board, similar to what Indiana has in place, to keep business insurance rates competitive and affordable.

"We're willing to look at more reform, but there is already savings that should be realized from previous reforms," Moeller said. "Let's address the reasons that they are not before we address more reform. And if we need to look at fraud, then let's do that."

Moeller and her colleagues return to Springfield next week for more work on the state budget.

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