On May 19 the Illinois General Assembly passed House Bill 2379, which requires every executive order to have an attached fiscal impact statement detailing how much the executive order will cost. State Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, is the main sponsor of the legislation.
“This legislation helps hold state government accountable by ensuring that lawmakers and the public know how much executive orders cost,” Scherer said in a statement reported by WAND TV.
This is a noble, commonsense sentiment. But while Scherer and other lawmakers who supported this bill are quick to urge the governor to be upfront about the financial impact of any potential executive orders, lawmakers themselves have passed numerous bills this session that failed to include a fiscal note. Lawmakers even voted numerous times to disregard those that did.
Fiscal notes are an important part of making the legislative process more transparent. Simply put, a fiscal note is like a price tag on a bill, and it contains information detailing how much the bill will cost taxpayers. Fiscal notes should be attached to every bill so that lawmakers know the cost of what they are voting on. At least 10 states require every bill to have a fiscal note.
But it is different in Illinois. From March 2015 to January 2017, 938 bills were passed by the General Assembly and became law. Of these, less than 3 percent contained fiscal notes. That means lawmakers did not know the price tag of 97 percent of the laws they passed.
To make matters worse, Democratic lawmakers have a history of ignoring fiscal notes. A lawmaker can file a motion to declare that the note “does not apply”. If a majority of lawmakers vote in favor of this motion then the fiscal note is declared inapplicable.
This scenario played out May 30, the second-to-last day of session, when state Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, filed a motion to make the fiscal note on Senate Bill 81, a minimum wage increase bill, inapplicable. Though this bill would surely come at a cost to taxpayers, Democratic lawmakers voted instead to ignore the costs. Scherer was among those who voted in favor of the motion.
The General Assembly needs to stop recklessly spending taxpayer money and take steps towards reforming how bills are passed by requiring fiscal notes be attached to every bill. This would make the legislative process far more transparent.