Illinois lawmakers returned to the state Capitol April 14 to continue their work to fix the $6.3 billion budget shortfall for Fiscal Year 2016.
Also during the week—with the April 15 deadline for filing taxes—Illinoisans learned that they live in the worst state in the nation to be a taxpayer.
And Governor Bruce Rauner continued the state’s response to the April 9 tornadoes that ravaged three northern Illinois counties. State agencies are continuing to respond on the ground, and on April 14, the Governor’s office issued an order that allows residents and businesses affected by the storms until October 31 to file their taxes.
Appropriations hearings scheduled around Illinois
A series of appropriations committee hearings were held in Champaign, Springfield, and Edwardsville this week. Each of the marathon hearings dealt with the current and proposed fiscal adjustments intended to bring Illinois’ budget back from the abyss.
After 12 years of fiscal mismanagement by former Governors Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are now working to establish spending priorities and balance the state budget. Since taking office in January, Governor Rauner has worked with both Republican and Democrat lawmakers to tackle the state’s serious financial problems.
While a legislative fix to balance the current state budget and keep government operations running was recently signed into law, passage of that measure was just the beginning of the difficult budget decisions legislators will be required to make in the coming months. On April 14, the Director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget told lawmakers that an additional $100 million in statutory fiscal reductions may be needed.
The magnitude of the state’s fiscal problems make difficult spending reductions necessary. We must identify ways to reduce inefficiencies and redundancies in state government—there can be as many as a dozen different state agencies or grant programs dealing with the same issue.
Land of Lincoln’s taxation blues
Online financial tool WalletHub produced another scathing review of Illinois residents’ tax burdens, following last week’s study that shows our property tax bill as being the second highest in the nation.
The latest study shows that Illinois ranks last among states for combined state and local tax rates. The study shows the average Illinoisan will pay an estimated $7,719 in state and local taxes just for the privilege of living in Illinois—2.5 times more than the most tax-friendly states. WalletHub also found that Illinois residents don’t get much bang for their buck—the state ranks 41st for return on taxpayers’ investment.
Oberweis and Fortner to host free Utility Bill Clinic May 11 in St. Charles
The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) will be offering tips to save money on utility bills at a free consumer event I am hosting with Representative Mike Fortner of West Chicago.
The Utility Bill Savings Clinic is scheduled for 10:00 a.m., May 11, at the St. Charles Public Library, One South 6th Ave. in St. Charles.
CUB representatives will be on hand to analyze telephone, gas and electric bills one-on-one and show participants how to save money.
For more information, call my office at 630-800-1992.
Help needed to repeal ban on Sunday car sales
I need the help of consumers to end Illinois’ Sunday sales ban for car dealers.
Sunday sales are allowed in 34 states, but not Illinois because of a 32-year old special-interest ban enacted by our Legislature. No dealer should be required to be open on Sunday, nor should any dealer be prevented from being allowed to be open if they choose to do so.
I have introduced three bills this year to address this issue, but they are currently being held in the Senate Transportation Committee awaiting a hearing. Senate Bill 1780 repeals the 32-year prohibition that has prevented Illinois consumers from being able to buy cars on Sundays. Senate Bill 1706 would allow auto dealers to sell cars on Sundays if the dealer is a person who observes a religious day of worship other than Sunday. They would then close on their day of worship and be able to be open on Sunday. The third bill would allow dealers to be open for two hours on one Sunday a month.
An in-depth discussion about this issue can be found on my legislative Web site. If you are willing to help (and I really need your help for a grass roots effort to overcome the industry lobbying effort), please send an e-mail to email@example.com and I will send you the e-mail addresses of the Transportation Committee members. These bills deserve a public hearing and a vote by lawmakers.
Higher penalties for exceeding driving limits
Senator Chris Nybo of Elmhurst and DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin are working together to increase criminal penalties for truck drivers and their employers who exceed legal limits on driving hours and, as a result, cause serious traffic accidents.
For those who violate motor carrier drivers’ hours-of-service regulations, Senate Bill 1582 would increase the current Class 4 felony charge to a Class 3 felony charge, which requires tougher sentencing requirements, if the violation causes bodily harm or death to another person. The legislation also states that any owner or company who forces their drivers to drive beyond legal limits and falsify driving logs can be charged with a Class 2 felony if the violation causes harm or death to another person.
Senate Bill 1582 is now awaiting action by the House of Representatives.