As a busy legislative session has concluded in the House of Representatives, I wanted to give you an update of just what major initiatives moved during the final month of the Spring session.
As Illinois residents already carry a heavy tax burden, I did not support the countless tax or fee increases that were proposed in the General Assembly. Between property taxes, sales taxes, and income taxes, Illinois is one of the highest taxed states in the nation, and adding additional taxes is not going to fix our problems.
In this newsletter, we’ve listed some of the biggest issues that were debated in the House of Representatives. Many of these issues are complex. Should you have additional questions or concerns, I encourage you to contact me at my district office so we can discuss them further: (847) 202-6584.
The House took action on May 31st to pass a budget, Senate Bill 262, that included $40.6 billion in spending for the Fiscal Year 2020. It was recently signed into law by the Governor as Public Act 101-0007.
I did not vote in favor of the state budget because I could not justify the process behind it or the amount of authorized spending included in it. Republicans were given mere hours to review the completed 1,581-page budget before a vote in committee and final up or down vote on the House floor. Not only were we given little time to review it, but the budget bill itself cemented an unsustainable growth in state government spending.
What I do advocate for is a better, more transparent process at the beginning of the Spring session, rather than an opaque one that is rushed through at the very end of May.
LAWMAKER PAY INCREASE
For example, one item that was discovered shortly after the House budget vote was a 2.4% lawmaker pay increase. Though the annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for lawmakers has been voted down for over 10 straight years, I did not support allowing it this year either because new taxes and fees on Illinois residents were imposed and the state’s backlog of bills remains in the billions of dollars. I signed onto legislation (HB2695) to prohibit such a pay increase. House Democratic leadership failed to call this legislation for a vote, however, and the lawmaker COLA was kept in this year’s state budget.
Illinois has not had a major capital and infrastructure package since 2009. In the decade that has passed since the last capital program, Illinois’ roads, bridges and building infrastructure has continued to decay, leading to significant capital needs across the state. While I understand that we need to improve the conditions of our roads and bridges, I did not support the plan that was offered. Illinois residents received no tax relief elsewhere this legislative session, and therefore, will simply be forced to pay more to live, work, and play in Illinois. Nevertheless, here are the details of the plan that passed:
Through Senate Bill 690, $2 billion in annual funding for transportation infrastructure is expected due to the following changes:
- Motor fuel tax (MFT) increase of 19-cents per-gallon on gasoline and 24-cents per-gallon on diesel. (Rates are indexed to inflation).
- Passenger Vehicle Registrations increased by $50, with $49 of proceeds deposited into Road Fund ($1 to State Special Services Fund) for a total registration fee of $151 per-year.
- Electric Vehicle Registrations: equal to other passenger vehicles plus a $100 additional fee for a total registration fee of $251 (currently $17.50).
- Truck Vehicle Registrations: Increased by $100, with $99 of proceeds deposited into Road Fund ($1 to State Special Services Fund).
- Certificate of titles: Increase by $55 for standard vehicles, but reduces fee for duplicate certificates by $45; adds other fees for salvage certificates, junking certificates, and motor home certificates.
- Commercial Distribution Fee: repealed on July 1, 2020.
- Provides that Cook County may impose a local motor fuel tax up to 3-cents per-gallon by local ordinance.
- Adds Lake and Will County to the list of counties that may impose a local motor fuel tax. The local motor fuel tax may be up to 8 cents.
- Provides for a $50 million annual IDOT program for pedestrian and bicycle facilities and the conversion of abandoned railroad corridors to trails.
SB 1939 passed the House by a vote of 83-29-1 and passed the Senate on Concurrence by a vote of 48-9-1.
THE GRADUATED INCOME TAX HIKE
On Memorial Day, the Democratic super-majority passed a graduated income tax amendment out of the Illinois House of Representatives.
SJRCA 1 was adopted by the House on a partisan vote of 73-44. I stood with my Republican colleagues in voting ‘No’ on this proposal. As the constitutional amendment resolution was previously adopted by the Illinois Senate, it will be placed on the November 2020 general election ballot for voter approval or disapproval.
Senate Bill 687, contains the proposed graduated income tax rates, which would kick in ONLY IF voters approved SJRCA 1 on the November 2020 ballot. It amends the Illinois Income Tax Act to impose a graduated income tax rate structure on individuals and increase the income tax rate on corporations. Provides that on or after January 1, 2021 (again, pending voter approval of SJRCA 1), the following income tax rates apply:
I could not support this graduated income tax proposal because it will raise taxes on Illinois families and businesses by at least $3.4 billion. High- and middle-income earners are at risk for another round of tax increases because revenue shortfalls would put enormous pressure on the legislature to expand the rate structure to raise whatever revenues are required or desired. This “divide and conquer” strategy makes it easier to raise income taxes in the future (meaning today’s tagline “97% of Illinoisans won’t pay more” easily morphs into “75% won’t pay more” and so on). The Chicago metro area already pays the majority of the state’s income taxes, and this proposed increase will hit our area the hardest.
The Democrats have a history of continuing to ask for more year after year (like the prior tax raises in 2011 and 2017) from hardworking taxpayers and businesses. Illinois families should remain very wary on the rates that are being ‘promised’ today – because there is no guarantee that they will remain that way.
You can listen to my remarks during this debate here to more fully understand my position on this issue.
ABORTION EXPANSION BILL
The House and Senate Democrats passed legislation that provides easier access to late-term abortions (including taxpayer-funded procedures) and risks undermining the state’s parental notification law for minors who seek an abortion. SB25 began as a bill regarding mental health but was “gutted and replaced” with a brand-new amendment on Sunday night of Memorial Day weekend. The general public and committee members both were given just an hour’s notice to look at the 126-page amendment before a vote later that evening. Very similar bill language had been shelved earlier in the Spring session as even some of Illinois’ pro-choice lawmakers weren’t comfortable with ambitions to make Illinois among the least restrictive states for abortions in the U.S.
The bill repeals certain abortion clinic safety standards, repeals the prohibition on sex-selection abortions, mandates that Illinois insurance plans cover abortions for free, takes away the requirement that coroners investigate maternal deaths due to an abortion, and takes away the requirement that only doctors perform abortions. These changes put women, pregnant teens, and viable unborn babies at risk. Despite bipartisan opposition, SB25 was sent to Governor Pritzker for his likely signature.
RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA LEGALIZED
During the final week of the regular spring session, the House and Senate passed legislation legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Illinois.
Through House Bill 1438, recreational use of cannabis is allowed by individuals over the age of 21. Illinois citizens may possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, and out of state individuals may possess up to 15 grams. In addition, medical cannabis patients may grow up to 5 plants in their residence. This legislation also expunges arrest records for possession of cannabis up to 30 grams. For individuals who have convictions for possession of up to 30 grams, the Governor will pardon those individuals, and the Attorney General will file a petition to expunge.
I voted against HB1438 because of concerns about the health, public safety and economic ramifications on our residents, communities and businesses. Cannabis is still a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance which remains illegal under federal law. To that tune, there is still much unknown about it, so much so that the Centers for Disease Control warns about the health risks and urges for research be done. In addition, the states that have already legalized recreational cannabis have experienced increases in social harms like unemployment, homelessness and life-threatening exposure of high potency marijuana to very young minors via edibles (cookies, brownies, gummy bears, lollipops, etc.). Considering all those factors, I believe legalization will do more harm than good.
Now that session in Springfield has adjourned, I am looking forward to spending time back in the 54th District, meeting with constituents and enjoying all that our community has to offer. Please know that my door is always open to you, and I look forward to seeing you this summer!