October 26, 2009
Will it be a trick or a treat that the legislature gives citizens this the final week of Veto Session? I head back to Springfield prepared for debate on a number of important issues. Your comments this past week have been helpful in offering stories about the impact of legislation upon your business and your family. I am convinced the way out of our fiscal morass is through citizen engagement and holding leaders accountable for their actions.
MAP Grant Legislation Filled with Empty Promises
I have been meeting with college students this past week to encourage their continued lobbying for funding of the Monetary Assistance Program (MAP). While the legislature passed and the governor signed Senate Bill 1180 earlier this month, the law authorizes spending without the funding. This is more of the same fiscal policy that has brought Illinois to a point of bankruptcy.
The governor traveled the state including a stop in DeKalb to tell everyone how important MAP funding in the second semester was for students. If he had the budget to fund the program why hasn’t he done so? If he doesn’t have the money, how can he say the new legislation solves the problem?
Governor Quinn’s actions remind me of our former governor who helped dig the state’s current financial crater. Spending money we don’t have on even very worthwhile programs is irresponsible and morally wrong. My concern now is that the Governor will tell universities to “loan” the MAP grants to students and then never reimburse them with state funding.
My tax amnesty legislation that would provide at least half of the funding necessary is still held hostage in the Rules Committee. On a party line vote, efforts were defeated to release the legislation to the House for debate.
College Grant Program to be Studied
The House also passed House Joint Resolution 75 to study the “efficiency and sustainability” of the college Monetary Award Program (MAP). The MAP funding crisis has led to questions about the future of the need-based financial aid program.
The study will examine the success rates of MAP recipients, demographics of students receiving grants, and efficiencies in the disbursement of funds. It will also study state appropriations for public university and community college operations, tuition and fee policies, and MAP funding.
Quinn Seeks to Delay Presenting a Budget
Despite saying this summer that he wanted to discuss the 2011 budget as soon as possible, Governor Quinn is now pushing to delay his annual budget address to the General Assembly until March. It would seem he wants to spend time campaigning instead of addressing our financial crisis.
House Bill 1409 to delay the address from February to March was defeated in the House. Nevertheless Speaker Madigan used a parliamentary maneuver to reconsider the issue at a later date.
Our state needs strong leadership right now to make tough decisions about reforms, budget cuts and revenue. The longer we delay paying bills and fail to build a balanced budget, the more damage we do to non- profit organizations and providers of state services.
Energy Credit Legislation Would Spur Business
New legislation currently moving through the General Assembly would help spur Illinois’ economy by lowering operating costs for Illinois manufacturers. HB 4599 which passed the House would offer manufacturing companies a tax credit on state taxes paid for gas and electricity consumption.
The bill would improve the competitiveness of Illinois manufacturing and offer an incentive for companies to stay and expand in Illinois. Manufacturing continues to be one of the largest contributors to the state’s economy, comprising 13 percent of our state’s gross domestic product.
Repeal of Partnership Tax Change
In the first of our two week veto session, the Senate voted to repeal the new tax on personal service income for partnerships and limited liability companies. The FY2010 budget bill approved in July changed tax policy by allowing only “guaranteed payments” instead of “reasonable compensation” for members of the partnership and limited liability corporation.
The change labeled as only “technical”, actually increased tax payments by $10 million. It’s no wonder that realtors, insurance salesmen, attorneys and others were not happy with paying another 1.5 percent of income tax. The Senate amendment to House Bill 2239 will be considered in the House this week.
State Asked to Micro Manage Cook County
Two pieces of legislation were brought to the House earlier this month in what appears to be asking the state to overrule local government. As you may recall, the Cook County Board recently approved a 1 percent increase in the county sales tax.
Voters rose up in protest and the county board tried to resend the increase but was not able to get 80 percent approval. House Bill 4625 easily passed the House to lower the vote needed for the county board to override a veto of the board president from four-fifths to three-fifths.
A second bill (HB4624) would have rolled back the sales tax increase without action of the county board. I believe this is overreaching into affairs of local government and joined my colleagues in keeping the bill from passing. Voters have an opportunity to select a county board chair and members of the board in next year’s elections. Public officials should always do what is in the best public interest and then be prepared to explain their votes to citizens.
Illinois Voters to Decide on Gubernatorial Recall
House Joint Resolution- Constitutional Amendment 31 was approved by the Senate earlier this month and is one step closer to giving Illinois voters the ability to recall a governor. The question will now be placed on the November 2010 ballot for voter consideration. For the gubernatorial recall to be inserted in the state Constitution, it will need 60 percent approval of citizens voting in the election.
The legislation sets up a process for recalling the governor which includes support from 30 legislators, petitions from citizens, and a special election. A second special election will follow to elect a replacement.
Capital Projects Held Up by Litigation
For those citizens and communities who have been waiting ten years for a major capital project bill, the wait will be awhile longer. The $31 billion capital bill passed this summer is being challenged in court by Rocky Wirtz and his distributing corporation.
The two lawsuits claim the capital bill violates the single subject rule, uses public funds for non-public purposes, ties one piece of legislation to another, and does not uniformly tax all items in a class of products.
Meanwhile the hope of putting people back to work with the capital projects will not be realized anytime soon.
Chicago Cemetery May Bring New State Regulations
As is often the case, another local problem is about to create more red tape and raise costs for everyone in Illinois. The issue involves Burr Oak Cemetery near Chicago which has been reselling burial plots already occupied by someone else. To correct this one situation, two bills have been introduced in the Senate (SB1471 and SB662) to regulate all cemeteries. Debate on the bills may occur in Veto Session this week.
The proposals call for all cemeteries and their employees to be licensed, have plats developed by a professional land surveyor, hire managers and keep all manner of records. These requirements won’t be cheap or possible for some small private or public cemeteries to comply.
Once again it looks like Illinois will increase the cost of doing business, living and even dying in this state.
Military to Get Extra Pay
My office recently became aware of a Defense Department program to increase the pay of active, reserve and former service members whose duty was extended following the terrorist attacks of 2001. Service members who served on active duty between September 11, 2001 and September 30, 2009 are eligible.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, service members should submit their claim for retroactive stop loss special pay before October 21, 2010. Eligible personnel will receive a payment of $500 per month for each month or any portion of a month that they were retained on active duty.
Contact my office or the county Veterans Commission for additional information and forms.
Hispanic Health Fair Set for Rochelle
Health fairs have been very helpful for some people in our community so I am broadening the concept for Hispanics in Rochelle on Saturday November 21. Various local, county and state providers will be on hand to offer free testing and share useful information for Hispanic residents of all ages.
In addition, the Mexican Mobile Consulate will be in Rochelle November 19-21 to help provide services to its constituents. Both events will occur at the Park Districts Teen Town. Watch for fliers to provide details.