Decatur… A Central Illinois lawmaker believes the State’s misplaced spending priorities are hurting local school districts.

State Representative Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) held a press conference Thursday at Parsons Elementary School in Decatur where he highlighted examples of pork-barrel spending that is leading to state spending cuts to local schools.

“The State budget approved by Democrats this year is riddled with pork for Chicago,” Mitchell said. “There’s a $50 million bailout of the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund and $35 million to build a school in Speaker Madigan’s district. Another $10 million is going to renovate a long-closed theatre owned by a Chicago promoter. These are just a few examples of wasteful spending in the Democrats’ unbalanced budget.”

Recent reporting by local media indicated that the tentative budget for Decatur schools showed that operations will be down by about $2 million. For the third year in a row, the State of Illinois is prorating general state aid to schools at 89 percent of the full entitlement. Rep. Mitchell described the negative effect this proration is having on local schools.

“Decatur schools lose $4.7 million in state aid under the 89 percent proration,” Mitchell said. “Mt. Zion loses nearly $700,000. Instead of blowing hundreds of millions in tax dollars on Chicago pork projects, the General Assembly should be using that money to fully fund general state aid for schools throughout Illinois. There’s only so much money to go around. Anytime Chicago gets a bigger piece of the pie, Downstate loses.”

Representative Mitchell pointed out other areas of wasteful spending in the unbalanced State budget, including $50 million for health insurance for illegal immigrants and $7 million for state planes to fly Governor Quinn and other officials back and forth from Chicago to Springfield.

“The Chicago politicians that control state government have their priorities all wrong,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got to cut all the wasteful spending and pork out of the budget. That money should be going to fund our schools, senior services and infrastructure. Downstate legislators from both parties need to work together to fight for our fair share of State tax dollars.”
Decatur, IL – On the cusp of a new fiscal year, Governor Pat Quinn has ordered the sale of nearly half of the State’s $22 million fleet of aircraft.

State Representative Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth), a long-time critic of the state planes, was encouraged by the Governor’s decision but believes the State should go even further.

“I think the Governor’s order is a step in the right direction but it doesn’t go far enough,” Mitchell said. “The State is spending millions each year on executive aircraft to fly the Governor and top leaders between Chicago and Springfield. We found out this spring that state planes are being used to fly prairie chickens into Illinois. These flights are a waste of taxpayer dollars and should be stopped altogether.”

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) maintains a fleet of sixteen aircraft, including six executive aircraft, worth an estimated $22 million. In Fiscal Year 2014, IDOT spent more than $7 million to operate and maintain the State’s fleet of aircraft. IDOT has spent nearly $33 million over the last five years on the air fleet, while costs have gone up by 35 percent.

“I have repeatedly filed legislation to sell the state air fleet,” Mitchell said. “I haven’t seen specifics on the Governor’s plan beyond a press release. If it’s his intention to only sell half of the executive fleet, I would urge further action to sell all non-emergency aircraft owned by the State. It’s time to put an end to these perks of political power.”