Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
Regional Educator Funding Restored
After months of waiting and several failed votes, legislation passed last week restoring funding for the Regional Office of Education (ROE) by raiding money owed local units of government. SB 2147 allows for the shifting of $13 million from the local government Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax Fund to ROE funding for one year and creates a commission to look at streamlining ROE offices.
Governor Quinn created a crisis in funding for the ROEs and their staff by vetoing their salary payments in the budget approved by the legislature. ROEs have not been paid since July 1 and consequently several have had to resign and find other work to support their families.
I reluctantly joined a majority of legislators in switching the funding from state to local sources because it was the only solution available to the legislature that restored salary payments quickly. The final legislation was amended to make the switch for only this fiscal year and to study responsibilities and cost of the ROE offices.
A major piece of legislation affecting unemployment insurance passed the General Assembly last week with rare unanimous support from business and labor. SB 72 provides changes to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Financing Act that erases a $2.4 Billion debt to the federal government by 2018 while saving the state $240 million in interest payments and $400 million for Illinois employers without raising taxes or reducing benefits to workers.
In addition, the bill provides significant reductions in unemployment insurance taxes for about half of the businesses—those that have not laid off any employees. Those businesses will see a 17 percent reduction in unemployment insurance taxes in 2012 and 35 percent in 2013.
Finally the legislation forces employers and labor back to the negotiating table in 2016 and 2018 to consider any needed changes based on the economic cycle and employment trends.
The reforms that provided all the savings included giving the Illinois Department of Employment Security authority to recoup improper unemployment insurance payments by reducing federal tax refunds. Another change would create personal liability when business officers and employees willfully evade paying unemployment insurance taxes. This change protects the employers who pay their share by not forcing them to cover the debts of tax evaders.
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