Last week in Springfield was primarily spent in committees. Time on the House floor was short and mainly spent on the passage of resolutions. I was recently appointed to two additional committees; Capital Appropriations and the Museums, Arts, and Cultural Enhancements Committee. This is a good time to remind my constituents that one of the fun perks of my office is the free museum pass I have to lend. If you and your family are interested in visiting some of Chicago’s world-class museums, contact my office to borrow it!
Senior Driving Class
It is time again for my senior driving classes. If you are 60 years or older, I highly recommend you attend this refresher course on the rules of the road taught by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. The first class will take place next Monday, March 11th at the Frankfort Township Building located at 11000 W Lincoln Highway. The two-hour seminar will run from 10 a.m.-Noon. Other seminars are scheduled for July and November of this year, with more information to come later. Call my office at (815) 277-2079 to reserve your spot today.
I80 Bridge Concerns
IDOT’s latest inspection of the I80 bridge over the DesPlaines River confirmed what we all have known to be true for a long time; that Illinois is in desperate need of a capital bill. As the ranking minority member of the House Transportation Committee, I am well aware that we sorely need to invest in our state’s crumbling infrastructure. I am in contact with all levels of government to spur Illinois to act before these legitimate concerns become outright tragedies.
Last week I spoke on the floor about the unacceptable condition of the bridge. While IDOT says the bridge is safe to use, I have spoken with IDOT and plan to meet with them as soon as possible to discuss how we can expedite this project. I recently petitioned for and received an appointment to the Capital Appropriations Committee, which will give me an important seat at the table when the specifics of a capital bill are determined. Rest assured this is my top priority this session in Springfield. You can watch my comments here.
Fitch Releases Latest Outlook
Two of the “Big Three” credit-monitoring agencies that oversee U.S. debts reacted negatively to Governor Pritzker’s budget proposal. According to Fitch Ratings, the proposed budget would not address the state’s structural budget issues in the current fiscal year or the next. They have given us a “Negative Rating Outlook” as a reflection of the return to deferring pension payments for near term budget balancing and, among other reasons, because it relies heavily on non-recurring revenues:
“Illinois faces significant fiscal problems that will likely take multiple years to fully address, but the executive budget does not provide enough clarity on how the state will deal with them.”
Why is this the risk of another bond rating downgrade important? Just like when you have bad credit, it’s more difficult to get a loan and the ones you do get are at higher interest rates. The governor’s budget plans to bond $2 billion dollars this year to supplement the state’s contribution to the pension systems. Our bond rating determines how much we will ultimately have to pay for that $2 billion.
House Republicans United Against Graduated Income Tax
The Illinois Constitution from 1970 dictates a flat tax. Any change would require a constitutional amendment, a process in which the governor plays no formal role. To change the constitution, three-fifths of both the Illinois Senate (36 votes) and House (71 votes) would have to approve the placement of the constitutional amendment on the 2020 general election ballot. The Democrats have a supermajority in both chambers and with the Governor’s enthusiastic support, it is expected to pass. However, it would still require 60% of the voters to approve it for ratification.
Senator Don Harmon has begun the process by filing SJRCA1, which only removes the flat tax provision and does not provide any specific rates. Neither the Governor nor the majority party has provided any specifics on their proposed rates, only that it would vaguely “make sure the very wealthy pay their fair share”. Proponents of this tax are misleading themselves and the public if they think changing the Illinois tax system this dramatically will only affect the very wealthy.
In a rare peek behind the curtain, last year a House Democrat-sponsored House Bill 3522, which sought to impose a graduated income tax and actually outlined rates. Under this plan, the non-partisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability revealed that 77% of Illinois taxpayers would see an increase in their income tax liability for a total of over $5.2 Billion in new taxes. Proponents love to point out that 33 states have a graduated income tax, and while that is true, it ignores more nuanced facts about the reality of the tax. Some states have a structure that peaks so low, they might as well have a flat tax. Georgia, Alabama, and Oklahoma’s highest tax bracket start at below $10,000, which hardly qualifies as the “very wealthy”. The majority of the remaining states that have a genuine graduated tax bracket, have rates higher than Illinois’ current 4.95% kick in lower than you might think. For example:
Last week House Republicans filed House Resolution 153, which states unified opposition to Governor Pritzker’s plan to implement a graduated income tax. Our belief is that we are in no position to demand more money from our beleaguered taxpayers when the Illinois government has yet to prove it can live within its means or spend money wisely.
The Illinois State Police have announced an initiative to up enforcement of the state’s “Move Over” law. Also known as “Scott’s Law”, it requires motorists to change lanes when they see a parked first-responder vehicle on the side of a multi-lane highway with moving traffic. If the driver cannot change lanes, the driver must slow down in order to pass the first-responder at a safe rate of speed. Despite this, ISP reports that ten of their squad cars have been hit by motorists so far in 2019. An incident on January 12th on a stretch of the Chicago-area I-294 led to the on-duty death of State Police Trooper Christopher Lambert. In this crackdown, a second police vehicle may park near, and just in front of, the first parked police vehicle. If someone disobeys the law and zooms through the lane, they can expect to be pulled over. A violation of the “Move Over” law requires a mandatory court appearance, at which time the offender may face license suspension and a fine of up to $10,000. Speaking of ISP, they are currently processing applications for Cadet Class 130, which is tentatively scheduled to begin in October 2019. In order to be considered for Cadet Class 130 Completed application and required documentation must be received by April 30th. To apply and review requirements visit https://www.illinoistrooper.com/.