Senator Steans

January 17, 2017

Dear Neighbor,

 

The Senate is working on a bipartisan package of bills to end the budget stalemate. Illinois is in its 19th month without a State budget – longer than any state in history has been without a budget. This impasse is devastating children, seniors, single parents, universities, school districts and health and human service providers across the state.

 

Below is an overview of the 12 bills that comprise our package. While anyone may quibble with individual pieces of this plan, it is a comprehensive effort to provide a balanced budget – with additional revenues and spending cuts – and improve our economic climate. In the words of Senate President Cullerton, “I think we’ve made it clear that the Senate is not afraid to take tough votes to solve problems and move this state forward.”

 

1. Two year property tax freeze (SB 13). Establishes a two year property tax freeze for home rule and non-home rule districts with exemptions for bond payments and pension contributions. It also provides mandate relief for school districts, including greater flexibility in scheduling physical education, using commercial driving schools for driver education, and contracting with third parties for non-instructional services.


2. Local government consolidation (SB 3). Extends local government consolidation procedures that exist in DuPage, Lake and McHenry counties to the entire state, allowing counties to dissolve local governments by referendum. It allows townships to merge with adjacent townships or if the township is coterminous with a municipality, to be dissolved. It further allows a township to absorb a township road district.


3. Pension reform (SB 11). Addresses the constitutionality of changing pensions by using a contractual approach. Employees are offered 3 items in exchange for eliminating the compounded 3% annual increase in their pensions: 1) a payment equal to 10% of the previous pension contributions; 2) a 10% reduction in future pension contributions; and, 3) a promise that all future salary increases will be pensionable. The bill also closes the General Assembly pension to future members, establishes an optional defined contribution plan, and makes changes recommended by the Governor in his last budget proposal.


4. Workers’ compensation reform (SB 12). Makes a number of changes to workers compensation, including: 1) cuts reimbursement for cost outliers on the medical fee schedule; 2) requires the Workers’ Compensation Commission to establish a prescription drug formulary; 3) creates a legal standard for traveling employees; 4) freezes the maximum wage benefit level for four years; 5) allows crediting for repeat injuries to the same part of the spine; and, 5) adopts other cost savings and efficiency measures.


5. Minimum wage increase (SB 2). Increases the minimum wage from $8.25 to $9 starting 7/1/17 and by 50 cents each year thereafter until it reaches $11.


6. Procurement reform (SB 8). Improves the efficiency of the procurement process to save money while maintaining transparency.


7. Borrowing to pay off the backlog of bills (SB 4). Allows the state to bond $7 billion to pay down bills (currently the state has over $11 billion in unpaid bills), paying off bonds over seven years.


8. FY17 supplemental appropriations (SB 6). Funds higher education, human services, group health insurance, and state operations for the remainder of this fiscal year.


9. Revenue bill (SB 9). Makes progressive changes to revenue as follows: 1) increases the personal income tax rate from 3.75% to 4.95% as of 1/1/17 and increases the corporate income tax rate from 5.25% to 7% as of 1/1/17; 2) implements a new tax of $0.01 per ounce on soda; 3) eliminates three corporate tax “loopholes”; 4) increases the Earned Income Tax Credit by 50%; 5) eliminates the corporate franchise tax; 6) increases the cap on education expense credit to $750 and creates a tax credit up to $250 for teachers who use personal funds to purchase classroom supplies; 7) reinstates the research and development tax credit and extends the sunset for the film tax credit; and, 8) reduces LLC filing fees.


10. Gaming bill (SB 7). Similar to a gaming bill passed by the General Assembly but vetoed by Governor Quinn, creates six new casino/riverboat licenses (one in Chicago w/full oversight by the Illinois Gaming Board), allows existing racetracks to obtain gaming positions, and increases the number of gaming positions at existing riverboats. The bill will generate almost $1 billion in up-front revenue and increase annual tax collections.


11. Pension parity for Chicago Public Schools (SB 5). Requires the state to pay the employer normal cost for Chicago teachers beginning FY17 to achieve parity in how Illinois pays for local teacher pensions.


12. Term limits for Senate Leaders (Senate Resolution 3). As its first act of business after electing Senate President Cullerton and Minority Leader Radogno last Wednesday, the Senate passed a new rule to limit leaders to five 2 year terms (10 years of service). We intend to vote on a constitutional amendment later to apply to both chambers.

 

These bills all include language that only allows them to become law when all of the bills are enacted into law; no single item can alone become law. I intend to vote for the most progressive package we can put on Governor Rauner’s desk at the earliest time possible to end the shameful destruction of our health, human services and educational systems here in Illinois. I welcome any feedback and suggestions.

 

Sincerely,
Heather Steans
Senator Heather Steans
7th District – Illinois

 

 

 

District Office

5533 N. Broadway • Chicago, IL 60640

773-769-1717 (Phone) • 773-769-6901 (Fax)

 

Springfield Office

122 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706

217-782-8492 (Phone)

 

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District Office
5533 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640
Office: 773-769-1717
Fax: 773-769-6901

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