Winger's Weekly Wrap-Up for June 11th

Rep. Winger Hosts Annual Property Tax Seminar 

State Representative Christine Winger held her annual Property Tax Seminar recently at the Bloomingdale Public Library. Representative Winger has prioritized this event every year to help residents understand the complex and often confusing property tax system and assessment process.

At this year’s seminar, Rep. Winger was again able to provide her 45th District residents with all the information they need to understand the process of how properties are assessed, and the right tools to learn how to appeal an assessment.

Local Tax Assessors were on hand to lead a detailed presentation on what variables affect your tax bill, how the assessment process works, and what exemptions are available. They were also able to answer residents’ specific questions on their tax bills and provide helpful insight. For any resident who was unable to attend this year’s seminar, but would like to know more, feel free to contact Rep. Winger’s District Office.

FY19 Budget

On Monday, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law a $38.5 billion bipartisan compromise budget that holds the line on taxes, increases funding for education, curbs spending, and creates a new adoption tax credit that will make it less costly for Illinois parents to adopt children.

“For the first time in years, we have an opportunity to manage our way into balance, and we don’t have to dip into the pockets of overtaxed Illinoisans to do it,” Rauner said. “Balance is in reach because we were able to accomplish $445 million of pension reform and the economy is stronger thanks to federal tax reform, and we are benefiting from an unexpected boost in tax receipts.”

“I’m signing this legislation because it is a step in the right direction, but it is not perfect,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do before we fully restore the state’s fiscal integrity. We still need to enact reforms that bring down the cost of government, make the state friendlier to job creators, and ignite our state economy so it grows faster than government spending.”

The bulk of the FY19 plan was laid out months ago when the Governor gave his budget address to the General Assembly on Valentine’s Day. It was there that he framed his chief goals for the upcoming fiscal year: spending within our means, and no new taxes.

"This balanced budget was a bipartisan compromise that contains no new taxes and includes full year funding with appropriations for those who rely upon us - schools, universities, corrections, seniors, families, children and the underprivileged," House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said. "I have always said we can achieve great things when we respect the priorities and principles of our counterparts, and with this new framework I look forward to accomplishing more reforms for the state of Illinois."

The General Assembly adopted many of the Governor’s key agenda items. He listed some of them during a press conference attended by legislative leaders, sponsors and budget negotiators.

o Blocked New Spending. Rauner and the Republican leaders staved off $1 billion in spending increases by aggressively managing agency budgets and tabling $500 million in spending increase proposals. That’s a billion and a half dollars in much-needed spending restraint.

o Education Funding. The budget fully funds the new evidence-based formula the administration introduced in 2015 and signed into law last summer. There’s $350 million in new K-12 dollars, which is up $1.4 billion since 2015, and $50 million for Early Childhood Education, which is up $200 million since 2015. AIM HIGH scholarships get $50 million to encourage Illinois high grads to attend Illinois universities. The MAP grant program is funded for four years. Colleges get $25 million of new money and the tuition tax credit program stays intact.

o Pension Reform. The legislature addressed pension costs by making some modest reforms that will reduce long-term liabilities and save $445 million this year.

o Adoption Tax Credit. Rauner said he was “particularly proud” of the work on his measure to create tax credits to encourage more adoptions by Illinois parents. Parents who can provide stable, loving homes for needy children can qualify for tax credits up to $5000 per child.

o Illinois Innovation Network. The budget gives the University of Illinois System $500 million to fund the Governor’s signature economic development program. The initial step is to get the Discovery Partners Institute up and running. DPI envisions a research and business public-private partnership that involves the entire Illinois university system and business innovators. U of I System estimates that the effort could spark $4 billion in annual invested capital for Illinois and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

o Quincy Veterans’ Home. There is $53 million in FY19 budget to get underway with the administration’s plan to construct a new veteran’s home in Quincy.

The budget was contained in two separate bills. HB 109 appropriates the $38.5 billion contained in the State’s general funds spending plan for FY19. HB 3342, the FY19 Budget Implementation (BIMP) bill, contains changes to the State’s statutory laws necessary to enable the State’s spending to be carried out within the overall $38.5 billion framework.

A major credit rating house, Standard & Poor’s, followed up on the budget enactment by reaffirming Illinois’s investment-grade credit rating. The two bills represented the first bipartisan, balanced budget enacted by Illinois in 15 years. Both HB 109 and HB 3342 were approved by final action of the House and sent to the Governor for signature. HB 109 (now P.A. 100-586) was approved by a vote of 97-18-00, and HB 3342 (now P.A. 100-587) was approved by a vote of 100-14-0. Both votes took place on Thursday, May 31. The two budget bills were signed into law on Monday, June 4.

House Adjourns 2018 Spring Session

Following more than four months of committee and floor action, the Illinois House adjourned on Thursday, May 31. This was the second and final main session of the 100th General Assembly, which was sworn into office in January 2017. As of May 31, the House members of the 100th General Assembly have sponsored 5,913 bills and 1,166 resolutions. In addition, state senators have sponsored more than 5,000 bills and resolutions. Many of these bills have been passed by both houses and sent to the Governor to become law.

The House and Senate look forward to returning to Springfield on Tuesday, November 13 for Veto Session, which is the six-day period set aside for consideration of the Governor’s vetoes of bills passed by both houses. In addition, committees and task forces of lawmakers will continue working throughout the summer and fall, and will hear witnesses offer testimony and guidance on key and ongoing State issues.

General Assembly Enacts Partial Pension Reform

One of the largest long-term challenges facing the State is the presence of unfunded pension liabilities in State-managed pension funds. The size of these liabilities, which cover pension payments promised to teachers and other public-sector professional workers, cannot be precisely determined at this time because it is based on future interest rates and prudent anticipated future rates of return on the funds already invested. Based on current estimates of future rates of return, the unfunded pension liabilities of the State and its taxpayers are in excess of $130 billion. $71 billion of this underfunding reflects commitments made by the Teachers’ Retirement System of Illinois.

In the spring 2018 session, the State took significant actions to delineate and reduce the unfunded liabilities on the books of the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) and State Universities Retirement System (SURS). Legislation passed on a bipartisan basis by both houses will reduce these liabilities in two ways. Firstly, school districts will no longer be able to pass on to the State the cost of “spiking” end-of-career educator salary hikes, which are the salary levels on which pension payments are based, at a rate that is higher than the current rate of inflation. Under the 2018 pension reform plan, the State-pension-liable portions of the salaries paid to educators by school districts cannot increase at a rate faster than 3%. Pension costs generated from salary increases greater than 3% must be borne by the school or university that granted the salary hike.

Secondly, the State has committed itself to inaugurating a new program to buy out part or all of the future pension benefits to be paid out in future years to active and inactive vested public sector workers. Under this proposal, vested public-sector workers – especially workers who are enrolled in pre-2011 “Tier I” pension plans – will be given the chance to take a buyout of a segment of their pension benefits. Workers who make the decision to accept a buyout will have the chance to enjoy a substantial cash payout that could be reinvested in ways the eligible vested person desires.

New Law Brings Independence, Transparency To Legislative Sexual Harassment Investigations

HB 138, approved by both houses of the General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor on Friday, will close loopholes in existing law, especially with relations to the Illinois General Assembly, on issues of sexual harassment. The bill makes the office of Legislative Inspector General a full-time position, lengthens the window of time within which a survivor of sexual harassment may file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, toughen harassment training for Illinois state legislators and their staff, requires annual reporting of sexual harassment reports, and makes other changes.

A full list of all of the reforms included in the bill can be found here.

House Democrats Pass Tax-Hike Resolution Supporting A Graduated Income Tax

HR 1025 was adopted 61-52-0, with House Republicans voting unanimously in opposition. Opponents pointed out that as a resolution that does not amend the flat-tax mandate in the Constitution of Illinois, HR 1025 was pure political posturing with no legally-binding impact. The resolution was adopted on Tuesday, May 29.

Illinois has the highest effective state and local tax burden in the nation – driven largely by some of the nation’s highest local property and sales tax rates. The consequences of this tax burden are evident through families leaving Illinois in droves – Illinois had a net loss of more than 874,000 residents from 2007 – 2016.

Instead of addressing the high tax burden and trying to reverse the decade-long trend of out-migration of Illinois residents, House Democrats’ and Speaker Madigan’s plan is to raise taxes even higher.

They are proposing an “Unfair Tax”, a graduated income tax, to force middle class Illinois families and small businesses to fork over even more of their hard-earned money to the State.

We need to be growing our economy by creating new, good paying jobs. The only way to do that is by being competitive with our neighbors and creating an environment of certainty for businesses to invest here.

An “Unfair Tax” would do the complete opposite – it would introduce a new level of uncertainty for families and businesses by making tax brackets subject to change at the whim of the legislature and Governor from year to year. And it would add to our already highest state and local tax burden in the nation.

General Assembly Places Construction Of New Quincy Veterans Home On Fast Track

The original Quincy Veterans Home, a skilled-nursing-care facility set aside for exclusive use by Illinois veterans and their spouses, was built in 1886 to house veterans of the American Civil War. The facility is reaching the end of its useful life and its plumbing system is failing. Some of the residents have fallen ill, and some have died, from the bacterium “Legionella” that can live in older pipes and HVAC systems. In a two-pronged process, SB 3128 provides for immediate remediation of the continuing problems at the existing Veterans Home, including the digging of a new well for clean water. At the same time, SB 3128 starts a fast-track process to construct a completely new Veterans Home at Quincy. The bill contains procurement language intended to make sure that the design and building of the new Home start as soon as possible. The House vote on Thursday, May 31 was 110-3-0.

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