In This Issue:
- Budget Discussion Shift
- New Testing Standards Coming Fast
- Mayors Express Concerns in Springfield
- Tax Freedom Day Arrives
- Memorial Ceremony for Police
- Graduated Tax Never Called
- Constitutional Petitions Filed
- Local Schools Receive Grant
- Pages in the Capitol
|Budget Discussion Shift|
The General Assembly returned to Springfield last week after a two week break and discovered that the planned roll-back in income taxes had been stopped. The House budget committees were now developing spending plans for FY2015 that are $4 billion more than last year and use the Governor’s predicted revenue of $38.6 billion. This total is derived by making permanent the income tax increase, sweeping $650 million from various fund balances, capturing $202 million more in federal Medicaid assistance, and ending the property tax credit of $560 million.
The Governor’s property tax relief plan of giving every homeowner a $500 payment will cost the state $1.275 billion. Increases in pension payments, Medicaid benefits, public employee health insurance premiums and bond payments next year will add another $1.4 billion to spending.
Since 2003, the party in control of state government has increased spending by $16 billion but has not funded what I consider the real priorities of our state. In addition, unpaid bills, borrowing and pension unfunded liabilities have grown.
In five of the last six years, education funding has decreased. Higher education that is needed for citizens to get the good paying jobs is at levels of the late 1990s.
|New Testing Standards Coming Fast|
The House Education Committee is holding a hearing this week to look into the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing. Many schools in the area conducted a trial of the new test recently in both paper-and-pencil and on-line formats. It was obvious that many changes need to be made to the test and testing process before it becomes the standard state-wide.
I am concerned that not all schools have adopted the new learning standards upon which the test is based. Second, colleges and universities are not prepared to accept the PARCC scores in place of ACT and SAT scores, as they evaluate students for admission.
School administrators and teachers are also concerned about the amount of testing that students are given in the last quarter of the school year. Some believe there will be as few as 9 days for actual instruction; the rest of the time will be taken up in various testing.
The question the Education Committee will be asking is simple; why are we moving so fast to implement this new test before all the bugs are worked out? There are several other tests that measure the new learning standards that many schools are already using which would reduce testing time and cost. The State Board is asking for $54 million to conduct testing next year.
|Mayors Express Concerns in Springfield|
Township officials in Springfield were mostly focused on state funding for their operations and capital funding for their road and bridge needs. I appreciate all of their time in coming to the capitol and their input.
|Tax Freedom Day Arrives|
Illinois residents celebrated “Tax Freedom Day” last Monday, April 28. That was the date the national Tax Foundation calculated that the average Illinois household had earned enough money to pay all of the federal, state, and local taxes charged for the year. With state income and sales tax rates at record highs throughout Illinois, and property taxes imposing record burdens in many areas, the 2014 “Tax Freedom Day” did not come to Illinois until three days later than last year.
The Prairie State is ranked 43rd in calendar order, to “celebrate” the day. All five states that neighbor Illinois have earlier Tax Freedom Days; Kentucky was on April 8th, Missouri April 11th, Iowa on April 13th, Indiana April 16th, and Wisconsin April 22nd. You can find more information about taxes at the Tax Foundation website www.taxfoundation.org.
|Memorial Ceremony for Police|
never know if their loved one will be called to give their life in the performance of their duty. We celebrate all of our law enforcement officers with a statue on the west side of the Capitol.
Graduated Tax Never Called
Even as supporters of the so-called “fair tax” chanted in the rotunda, the Senate failed to vote on SJRCA 40 to place a constitutional amendment for a progressive income tax on the ballot this fall. Since the deadline for General Assembly action has now passed, the amendment will not appear on the fall ballot and thus cannot become law.
SJRCA 40 and its companion measure, Senate Amendment #2 to SB 350, would have enacted a multi-billion-dollar tax increase for nearly all individual income taxpayers from the tax rates scheduled for next year. Opponents to the measure on both sides of the aisle were concerned that such an increase in taxes would add even further damage to the state’s reputation for a good place to conduct business and live, and force more citizens and businesses to leave the state.
Constitutional Petitions Filed
Last week two different citizen-initiative constitutional amendments were filled and could be on the ballot this fall. These initiatives will appear on the ballot unless there is a successful constitutional challenge of the petition amendments.
Term limit petitions filed by gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner. This petition had 590,000 signatures to place a term-limit amendment on the November ballot. The measure would limit state legislators to no more than eight years in office, change the number of House and Senate members necessary to override a governor’s veto from three-fifths to two-thirds, and shrink the size of the Senate from 59 members to 41 members. Each new, term-limited senator will match up with three members of the new- term-limited Illinois House, and the total size of the General Assembly will shrink from 177 members to 164 members.
Opponents to the measure are scrutinizing the validity of signatures and challenging that the legislative term-limit measure does not conform to the rules set forth in Article XIV, Section 3 of the Illinois Constitution for amendment by petition. In addition to this lawsuit, Democrats this week blocked a separate term-limit constitutional amendment (SJRCA 69) for statewide constitutional officers.
Redistricting petitions filed. “Yes for Independent Maps“, a nonpartisan citizens’ group, filed more than 500,000 petition signatures to place a redistricting constitutional amendment on the November ballot. If approved by the voters, this amendment will create a permanent, independent commission to remap Illinois’ General Assembly after each population census.
The commission would be separated as much as possible from direct political loyalty, so that it can draw each new map for the Illinois House, Illinois Senate and U.S. Congress from Illinois as geographically reasonably as possible without concern to ethnicity or party loyalty. The first new map would be drawn shortly after the 2020 census.
As with the term limit constitutional amendment petition, this petition is being challenged in court as well.
Local Schools Receive Grant
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency recently announced the recipients of the School and Campus Safety Grant Program. Congratulations to the many local schools were awarded funds. The list of local recipient schools is below:
Northern Illinois University
Belvidere CUSD 100
Meehan Elementary School
Belvidere High School
Belvidere South Middle School
Central CUSD 301
Central Middle School
Sycamore CUSD 427
North Elementary School
DeKalb CUSD 428
Founders Elementary School
Gwendolyn Brooks Elementary School
Cortland Elementary School
For more information see the statement on the Governor’s website including the complete list of recipients.
Pages in the Capitol
return one day as legislators. Thanks for making the trip!
I will be meeting with constituents and serving lunch for the Voluntary Action Center’s fundraiser on Monday before traveling back to Springfield. Call if my office can be of assistance and to share your opinions on legislation. Have a great week.
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