I hope you had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend. Session is scheduled to end on May 31st and we are still very far apart on many issues. It’s going to be a tough week.
House Republicans took a moment for a small ceremony in front of the war memorial in the capital. At 3pm we held a moment of silences for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
The business community, recognizing this farce, sent a letter to legislators on Friday asking that they vote against Madigan’s proposals:
“At this time, we are asking all House lawmakers to vote present on the workers’ compensation amendments filed yesterday until our elected officials have reached comprehensive agreement on reform. Illinois employers stand ready to work with leaders on both sides of the aisle.”
The Governor has filed his own bill on worker’s compensation. The bill would require the cause of a worker’s injury to be factored into worker’s compensation benefits, put greater flexibility in to the arbitration process, and includes protections for those who work multiple similar jobs in a row and get an aggravated injury, like that of the coal miner we heard during the worker’s compensation Committee of the Whole.
I take issue with this specific proposal for a number of reasons. We’ve seen how this type of legislation can have negative effect on jobs and tax receipts in states like New Jersey, which instituted a similar change in 2004. A 2011 New Jersey Treasury study found that changes in their tax rates had led to a cumulative loss of 20,000 taxpayers and $2.5 billion in annual state income. This legislation will potentially have a negative effect on small businesses as well as many are pass-through entities. 71% of small businesses file as individuals. Many of those businesses and their owners have income that exceeds one million dollars, but most of the owners of those companies leave much of that income in their businesses and reinvest in growing their companies. This leads to investment in the community and more jobs. Finally, putting a specific dollar amount in the constitution, which is incredibly difficult to change, is a bad idea. In 1970 when the Illinois Constitution was adopted, $164,000 was equivalent to $1 million today.
Any possible revenue from HJRCA26 wouldn’t be reaped until at least 2017/2018 and does nothing in the meantime to address the budget shortfall we are currently facing. Governor Rauner has said no revenue before reform. The taxpayers shouldn’t have to keep reaching in to their pockets only to give to a state that has proven it cannot properly manage funds. Instead of working to fix the problems, the problem makers are asking the taxpayers to bail them out with no guarantees that the irresponsible spending practices will change.
The majority party has proven intractable and has seemingly left the negotiation table in the working groups. So on Friday, Governor Rauner filed several pieces of legislation relating to his Turnaround Agenda. The five bills that were introduced reflect some of the compromises and concerns raised by Democrats in the working groups. His bills included reforms to tort laws limiting venue shopping by lawyers, reforms to workers compensation, a temporary property tax freeze on all governments (including home rule units), an amendment to the Illinois constitution instituting term limits, a constitutional amendment to the remove legislators from the redistricting process, and a bill allowing a unit of local government to seek Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection after attempting to find a solution through a neutrally guided process. The governor’s office has put forth their legislation because Democrats have stopped negotiating in good faith. The majority party has walked away from the working groups, which were meant to reach bipartisan compromise, instead throwing around fake pieces of legislation and playing politics. It is up to the Speaker to see if these bills get a legitimate chance for debate and a vote.
Department of Transportation Releases Plan
IDOT has announced a FY2016-2021 proposed Multi-Modal Transportation Improvement Program. The program has an anticipated spending level of just over $8 billion dollars with $5 billion going to improvements to the state highway system and $3 billion to the local highway system. The majority of the money will be used for road and bridge maintenance. The money is being provided by mostly by federal highway funds, but also through gas taxes, vehicle registration fees, and the consolidation of transportation programs. These sources face an uncertain future and so this program is expected to be supplemented by a separate planned capital bill that is being considered in a statewide tour.
Small businesses can also get a boost by going to www.metrochicagoexports.com. To help small businesses located in our area expand their sales to new international markets, Metro Chicago Exports builds off the work of the Global Cities Initiative to help grow our local communities by connecting them to global markets.