Update from the Capitol 2/22/16

Governor delivers budget options to General Assembly
 
 Governor Bruce Rauner addressed a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly last week, laying out his budget priorities and options to achieve a balanced spending plan that meets our families’ and communities’ needs.  The Governor stressed that education is and will remain his top priority, proposing record state support for our children’s schools and also for early childhood education. I agree that we should send him a clean school funding bill that meets those goals.
 
For the rest of state spending, he offered two plans to finally balance our budget; one that includes spending reforms and one that relies more heavily on spending cuts. He stressed that his preferred budget is one that is “responsible and compassionate,” but also stressed that we cannot continue to spend more than we bring in in revenues.
 
The Governor promised to work with lawmakers to enact cost saving reforms, grow the jobs market and enhance state revenues.  He has demonstrated flexibility and a willingness to work across the aisle. It’s time for Speaker Madigan to meet him halfway.
 
I would like to know what you think about the governor’s budget proposals. Please click the "sound off" button on the right hand margin of this page to voice your opinion.

Real higher education funding option still on the table
 
On Friday, the Governor vetoed a bill supporters claimed would allocate needed state funding for community colleges and student MAP grants. Senate Bill 2043 was vetoed because it was a funding bill with no actual funding attached. In other words, it was an empty promise.  Our community college, university and student budgets are stretched beyond their breaking point, and more empty promises won’t help. 
 
The good news is that there is still a real, workable proposal on the table to fund higher education for the remainder of the fiscal year. House Bill 4539 would provide approximately $1.68 billion to provide adequate funding for universities and community colleges, and would fully fund students’ MAP grants at last year’s level.  And, unlike the proposal that was just vetoed, House Bill 4539 specifies an actual path to deliver the funding utilizing existing revenues. It would work in tandem with legislation that would afford the Governor the ability to manage monies in existing funds to adequately fund programs including higher education.
 
So far, Speaker Madigan has denied House Bill 4539 due process in the House. In the coming weeks I look forward to working with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to change his mind. Our students and universities can’t wait any longer.
 
House passes controversial arbitration bill, but measure does not attain veto-proof majority
 
The House last week again took up legislation that would make complicated changes to public-sector labor law; the changes are aimed at giving a strategic advantage to certain labor unions, especially AFSCME, that represent workers in state government.  I strongly support all of our state workers, and so I have serious concerns with legislation that would drastically change the rules for both sides in the middle of contract negotiations.
 
First and foremost, House Bill 580 takes away the union’s hard-fought right to strike.  It also takes the Governor out of his role of representing the taxpayers in contract negotiations, which is his job. 
 
While I continue to have strong misgivings, House Bill 580 was sent to the Illinois Senate for further debate. The measure received 67 Democrat votes in the House, but 71 votes are necessary to override the Governor’s expected veto.
 
New survey puts Illinois next to last for middle-class taxpayers
 
A recent survey places Illinois at the bottom of states that are tax-friendly to the middle class.
 
According to personal-finance website WalletHub, the Illinois tax burden as a percentage of middle-class income is 11.30%, with more than one dime from every dollar of nominal income going to pay income, sales, property, and other levies.  For a middle-class family with household income of $70,000, the annual burden of taxes calculated by WalletHub is greater than $7,900.  That’s more than $31 in taxes levied upon a typical Illinois middle-class household in every work day!  
 
The Illinois tax burden upon the middle class, according to WalletHub, is the 50th worst among U.S. states and the District of Columbia.  The ranking of 50th out of 51 renders Illinois next to worst for taxation quality of life as a member of the middle class.  New York scored 51st.  All of Illinois’ neighboring states, including Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, and Wisconsin, outscored the Prairie State. Missouri was especially dramatic in its superiority over Illinois in the table, with the 22nd highest tax burden within the 50 states on its middle-class residents.   
 
This is yet more proof that struggling families here in Illinois can’t take another tax hike.
 
IL Dept. of Public Health believes Illinois is at low risk for Zika through mosquito bites
 
Are you worried about the Zika virus?  The Illinois Department of Public Health says if you’re staying home in Illinois, you likely don’t have too much to worry about because Illinois winters are too cold for tropical mosquitoes that carry the disease. IDPH does continue to advise pregnant women in particular to refrain from traveling to countries where the disease is widespread.
 
Zika was first identified and tracked by public-health experts as it spread around the world along the Equator.  The first three Zika cases so far diagnosed in Illinois as of Tuesday, February 16, have all resulted from persons traveling to warm-weather countries and then entering or re-entering Illinois.

Pro-jobs votes highlighted
 
I am proud to say that I recently received 100% ratings from the Illinois Manufacturers Association and the Associated Builders and Contractors for my House votes in support of growing and maintaining good jobs in Illinois. My thanks to both for continuing to highlight the importance of improving our jobs climate for our families and communities!
 
As always, you can contact me via webform right here on this website.