Hope you had a wonderful 4th of July weekend.
Stopgap Budget Alleviates Pressure
Since the end of scheduled spring session, and in the absence of a state budget, working groups had been focused on K-12 education funding and a stopgap budget to fund state operations until after November elections. The main sticking point was Chicago school funding with the Senate Democrats going so far as to propose sending what would have amounted to nearly $800 million dollars to help out the dysfunctional school system.
General Assembly leaders and the Governor met for longer than ever before on Tuesday and Wednesday to come to some sort of middle ground. The resulting agreement was brought to the floor for a vote on June 30th, the end of FY16. House Democrats almost derailed and extorted the process by changing the terms of the deal at the last minute. After passing the Chicago components of the agreement, the main spending portion, SB 2047, was held up when an amendment was added to spend an additional $10 million towards minority teacher education. Eventually, a final amendment restored the original deal and brought a sense of trust back to the process.
6 Months Reprieve
The fully funded agreement, through SB2047, provides a full year of funding for elementary and secondary education, road construction, federal programs and other non-GRF programs for both fiscal years 2016 and 2017. It also includes General Revenue Fund(GRF) money to cover utilities, food and medical services at state prisons, mental health centers, veterans’ homes and other 24 hour care facilities as well as critical human services not being paid under consent decrees or court order and continued operations of other key state government services for 6 months. K-12 education is fully funded for the first time in years and an additional $250 million will be given to lower income school districts. Contact my office for information about specific programs and services.
As a part of the end of fiscal year negotiations, another bill was passed that will allow the Chicago school board to raise property taxes by as much as $250 million dollars annually. CPS currently owes a $669 million pension payment to the teachers’ pension fund. SB315 does not mandate a property tax raise, but gives CPS the option to levy one. Money raised by any CPS tax hike must be deposited directly into the pension fund and cannot be diverted or used for any other purpose. Additionally, CPS will get a one-time teacher pension payment from the state next year that is conditional upon the General Assembly’s passage of pension reform legislation this fall. For more information on the deal, please visit my website
Illinois Still in Financial Difficulty
While many are breathing a tentative sigh of relief, the bipartisan deal does nothing to address Illinois’ long standing financial issues or present budget gap. Both parties believe they will be in a better position to tackle the larger issues after the election. In the meantime, Illinois was downgraded by Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s, which brings the state one notch closer to “junk bond” status. The credit ratings posted by Moody’s and its competitors are meant to gauge the probability that a piece of debt paper will go into default. As Illinois’ credit rating declines, Illinois taxpayers must pay higher interest rates. In addition, the State faces the prospect of substantial supplemental penalties should credit ratings further decline, with borrowing covenant clauses in effect in which the State promised to lenders who have already lent the State money that it would maintain the value of its debt at investment-grade levels.
New Gun Law Proposed
After the tragic events in Orlando, a bipartisan group of lawmakers filed legislation that will help keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who have been deemed a public safety threat, have made threats of terrorism, or have been charged with an act of terrorism. HB6588 protects the rights of lawful citizens while strengthening provisions of the Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) Act as it pertains to rejecting or revoking the credentials of individuals who have been identified as a clear risk to the safety of others. While providing law enforcement with an additional tool in the fight against gun violence and terrorism, the legislation also provides for a right to due process for those who have had a FOID card denied or revoked. Due process concerns have been a major issue for legislation at the federal level. In addition to the stronger provisions for screening FOID card applicants, HB 6588 also requires police chiefs and deputy chiefs to receive annual training concerning the FOID Act, the Concealed Carry Act, and firearms investigations.
Vehicle Owners to See Relief
As a result of the impasse, at the end of last year, Secretary of State Jesse White suspended the mailing out vehicle registration renewal reminders to the public. Last week the House and Senate voted to waive vehicle sticker delinquent registration renewal supplemental late fees if no warning was mailed. Many Illinois residents have complained about no longer getting the letters and then facing penalties for late sticker-renewal actions.
Second Self Defense Class Scheduled
Dozens of women came out last Thursday for a free self defense class my office hosted that was taught by the non profit group, One Light. The event received such positive feedback both before and after the actual class that we will be hosting another on Monday, August 1st so that those who were unable to make it last Thursday don’t miss out on this invaluable experience. It will be from 6-9pm in the Frankfort Square Park District Community Room. For more information or to register, please call my office or email me back.