In addition to establishing a budget that continues Illinois on a path to restore fiscal responsibility without further harming Illinois’ students and neediest residents, I am working on a number of legislative initiatives this session. Some highlights are summarized below.
Banning Micro Beads (SB2727). This bill will ban plastic microbeads used for exfoliating from beauty products. The tiny beads contaminate the Great Lakes and end up in drinking water and fish, as noted in this Crain’s article.
Reducing Urban Flooding (SB2966). Significant flooding is occurring outside floodplains – in Cook County there was $660 million in property damage from flooding over 5 years according to the Center for Neighborhood Technology. This bill requires DNR to identify the prevalence and costs of urban flooding, storm water management programs that can prevent flooding, strategies and financing methods to minimize property damage from flooding, and strategies to increase participation in the National Flood insurance program and availability of affordable flood insurance.
Increasing Wages for Direct Service Workers Caring for People with Disabilities (SB2604). Direct service workers currently get an average of $9.35/hour (21% below poverty level for family of 4). This bill would raise wages to $13 by January, 2016. The Springfield Journal-Register explains their support for this effort in an editorial.
Cutting LLC Fees (SB2776). Illinois has the highest LLC filing fee in the nation ($500), hurting small business start-ups. This bill decreases the fee to $39, making it the lowest in the country.
Establishing a Rainy Day Fund. I am working with the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, the Comptroller’s Office, and the House to determine how to best establish a meaningful Rainy Day Fund for Illinois. Such a fund will provide security in economic down periods without creating bill backlogs like the state has been experiencing since the last recession.
Sincerely,Senator Heather Steans7th District – Illinois
5533 N. Broadway • Chicago, IL 60640
773-769-1717 (Phone) • 773-769-6901 (Fax)
M120 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706
The General Assembly is back in session. With the state’s ongoing fiscal challenges and as an appropriation chair, much of my attention this year will focus on the budget. This update provides an overview of the tough choices we face in passing a balanced budget. Next week I will highlight other legislative initiatives I am working on this session.
In January, 2011 the General Assembly and Governor enacted a temporary income tax increase that raised individual and corporate income tax rates. This temporary increase begins to phase out January 1, 2015, halfway through the state’s next fiscal year (FY15). Thus despite natural revenue growth, the bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) projects revenues to fall $1.6 billion in FY15. You can view COGFA’s overview of the temporary tax increase and revenue projections here.
While revenues are decreasing, the state’s mandated expenditures will grow. Certified pension payments are estimated to increase $243 million (as the recently passed pension reform is being challenged as unconstitutional, the State cannot count on the expected $1 billion in savings until the cases make it through the court system). Due to 2% pay raises and employee healthcare cost inflation, the state’s expenses for employees will grow about $374 million. Medicaid is a federal entitlement program, and while we made significant cuts to the program, it is expected to grow due to more recipients and healthcare cost inflation. Finally, by statute the state provides a share of revenue to local governments and these transfers will increase about $278 million.
The fall in revenues coupled with the increase in mandatory expenditures results in a shortfall of $2.6 billion for discretionary spending, or a 19% decrease, as shown in the chart below.
The adjustable spending includes many human service programs, general state aid to schools, and higher education and financial aid. Without additional revenue, programs like child care services, in-home care and meals for seniors, treatment for individuals with mental health illnesses and substance addictions, general state aid to schools, and financial aid for college students will be cut significantly.
It is easy to suggest that we simply cut waste, fraud and abuse to solve our problems. However, Illinois’s per capita employee headcount is already the second lowest in the country, and the state’s spending is the 4th lowest in the country as a percent of Gross State Product.
In The District
In addition to the work on the budget in Springfield, I would like to make you aware of these upcoming events in the district. Please click here to see more.
Each February, our nation celebrates Black History Month. Throughout history, African Americans have enriched our nation in many ways. During this month we honor the culture, the many achievements, and the important milestones of African Americans.
Many events take place throughout Chicago in celebration of Black History Month. Here are some events welcome to the community:
City Treasurer’s Black History Month Essay Competition Deadline to enter: Tuesday February 11th This essay competition is open to all senior high school CPS students who plan to enroll in an accredited two-four year institution of higher education in the fall of 2014. This year’s essay topic is to write about the most inspiring lesson we can learn from the life of Nelson Mandela. For more details click here.
Black Arts Expo Wednesday February 12, 6:30PM Loyola University Chicago’s Black Cultural Center Damen Student Center, MPR North 6511 N. Sheridan Rd Chicago, IL Join Loyola as students showcase poetry and a documentary in honor of Black History Month!
Loyola Park: Black History Month Celebration Sunday February 23rd, 12:00PM-4:00PM 1230 W Greenleaf Ave Chicago, IL 60626 This event is free to the public and will be a celebration of the African American culture through live poetry, historical remembrances, music and refreshments. For more details click here.
Chicago Premiere of Hate Crimes in the Heartland: A Documentary - Black History Month National Tour Tuesday February 25th 7:00PM CDM Theatre 14 W. Jackson Blvd. Chicago, IL 60604 Hate Crimes in the Heartland, a new documentary, explores the 250,000 hate crimes committed in the United States each year through the lens of two hate crimes in Tulsa, Oklahoma. DePaul University will present the Chicago premiere of Hate Crimes in the Heartland. This screening includes a reception and a talk with national and local civil rights leaders. It is hosted by: The School of Cinema and Interactive Media, Visiting Artists Series, The President's Signature Series and the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity. The event is free but you must get tickets online prior to the event. For more details on how to attend click here.
CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARIES EVENTS Chicago Public Libraries are hosting various events celebrating Black History month. Below is a list of events they are hosting in the area. Be sure to click HERE if you wish to learn more about events at different libraries in the city.
Join author A.C. Barnes of The Promise Kept in a thought-provoking discussion on the origin of Black history and the connection of historical events that impacted the past and influence our lives today. For more details click here.
Art & The Great Migration for Kids Thursday, February 9th 4:30-5:30PM Rogers Park 6907 N. Clark Street, 60626 Artist Patrick Thompson presents an educational art program using books and art to explore the Great Migration in honor of African-American History Month.
Recommended for ages 5 and older. For more details click here.
Thanks very much to the 435 of you who answered the survey that was included in a mailing sent to you. Below are the results of the survey, with the percentage of respondents answering indicated in parentheses after each option. Comments and suggestions individuals shared follow. I read these results with tremendous interest and find them helpful in shaping my views. I appreciate the time you took to share your views.
2013 Constituent Survey Results
Currently the State of Illinois has a flat income tax, where all income levels are taxed the same. Are you in favor of: A. Keeping the flat tax (23.7%) B. Creating a sliding scale where the tax rate is higher for individuals with higher incomes (69.0%) C. Other (7.3)
The temporary income tax increase (from 3% to 5%) is scheduled to start phasing out in January 2015. Should the state replace this revenue, and if so, how?A. Make the temporary income tax increase permanent (23.0%) B. Increase the corporate tax rate only (15.0%) C. Broaden the sales tax to include services (like haircuts and dry cleaning) (4.0%) D. Allow licenses for additional casinos (9.2%) E. Increase gasoline tax (1.8%) F. Decrease tax deductions (4.0%) G. The state should not replace this revenue (8.0%) H. Other (35.0%)
Which approach to Illinois Senate and House redistricting do you support? A. The current system, in which districts are organized by a legislative redistricting committee and voted on by the House and the Senate (9.5%) B. A hybrid system in which a redistricting plan is proposed by an independent commission and brought up to vote in the legislature (7.6%) C. A non-partisan, independent commission composed of citizens so as to reflect the geographic and demographic diversity of the state (72.8%) D. Other (10.1%)
Which sustainable environmental policy should Illinois prioritize?A. Incentivizing water conservation (9.6%) B. Greening Chicago Public Schools (3.0%) C. Reducing diesel pollution (10.5%) D. Increasing requirements to use renewable energy (19.7%) E. Increasing mandatory recycling requirements (14.1%) F. Other (43.1%)
How can Illinois better prevent crime? A. Increase police and surveillance cameras (12.8%) B. Increase after-school programs for youths (21.0%) C. Increase funding for community organizations, such as Ceasefire, that seek to prevent crime (16.2%) D. Other (50.0%)
How can Illinois better encourage business development and business? A. Provide tax incentives for businesses to expand (12.8%) B. Lower the corporate income tax rate (6.1%) C. Increase funding for job training programs (11.4%) D. Fund road, school and other public infrastructure projects (17.3%) E. Increase funding for education (7.9%) F. Other (44.5%)
Comments and Suggestions
Below is a compilation of the comments and suggestions I received. I also indicate how many people shared similar thoughts.
Safety/Crime/Prisons (4)Concentrate on neighborhood safety (2) More focus on gun safety (1) Decrease gun-related criminal acts (1)
Taxes - Decrease (6) Lower personal income tax (2) Reform property tax deduction income criteria (1) Reduce rate for car licenses and pet licenses (1) Reform CEDA income eligibility requirements (1) Reduce entrance fees for Chicago museums (1)
Taxes - Increase (8) Increase corporate tax/remove corporate tax breaks (3) Implement a progressive tax (2) Increase taxes to fund pensions (1) Increase driver license’s fee (1)
Reduce state spending/abuse (4) Increased public acknowledgment in legislature’s role in current financial crisis (2) Eliminate pensions for state politicians (1) Eliminate health subsidies for state politicians (1)
Education (4)Increase vocational training programs for high school students (1) Increase training programs (such as computer training) to increase competitiveness with other countries, such as Japan, China (1) Increase funding public schools instead of charter schools (1) Hire dedicated and qualified teachers (1)
Human Services/Health Care (6) Oppose gay marriage (1) Increase funding and benefits to veterans (1) Expand Medicaid (1) Increase affordable housing for all (1) Create housing credits for rent and mortgage (1) Affordable housing for mental ill (1)
Pensions/Benefits (31) Address/take action on pension crisis (22) Pass pension reform bill (3) Eliminate pensions for state politicians (2) Leave pensions alone/support teachers, firefighters, police pensions (2) Leave the pension system as it is (1) Eliminate pension system (1)
Ethics and Elected Officials (8) Establish term limits (6) Eliminate corruption/support stronger ethics laws (1) Limit political campaign contributions (1)
Human Rights (1) Increase cultural diversity (1)
Environment (2) Ban/better regulate fracking (2)
Jobs/Economic Development (16) Increase job training (5) Increase small business incentives/reduce restrictive business constraints (4) Allow casinos to fund pensions (1) Private financing to redevelop run down neighborhoods (1) Aid start-ups in the state (1) Increase neighborhood/community development (1) Oppose gambling because it takes away from essential services and business services (1) Reduce business incentives, such as enterprise zones, DOE grants and research development grants (1) Allow a casino in Chicago (1)
Housing/Infrastructure (2) Provide more affordable housing generally and for seniors (1) Fix infrastructure (1)
Budget (16) Increase fiscal responsibility and governmental transparency (12) Make budget priority (2) Increase transparency and clear link between revenue and spending (2)
Other (30) Establish priorities that offer best opportunities and results even though there are no easy solutions (10) Review of Senator’s tenure (7) Commentary on survey itself (5) Current financial crisis is dire (3) Reduce American involvement in foreign affairs (1) Put caps on health insurance industry, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals (1) Consider the impact of Dominick’s closing has on neighborhoods (1)Introduce more traditional democratic, liberal policies (1) Introduce more traditional constitutional based policies (1)
District Office 5533 N. Broadway Chicago, IL 60640 Office: 773-769-1717 Fax: 773-769-6901
Springfield Office 623 Capitol Building 301 S. Second St. Springfield, IL 62706 Office: 217-782-8492