The good news – very little happened this week in Springfield. But a state board that oversees state purchases says the use of controversial no-bid contracts has grown under Governor Pat Quinn, in some cases outpacing even former Governor Rod Blagojevich.
In other news, the prospect of Illinois moving to a graduated income tax has been grabbing headlines lately; however, a look at the rates in others states could give Illinoisans an idea of what the impact might be in the state. And a special Senate Committee is looking at ways to prevent tragic boating accidents.
No Bid Contracts Soar
Members of Illinois’ Procurement Policy Board, the state’s main purchasing oversight board, have revealed that officials approved more than $135 million in no-bid “emergency” purchases during the fiscal year that ended June 30. To put that figure in perspective, it is $34 million more than the previous fiscal year, and a startling 300 percent more than similar no-bid purchases during the last year former Governor Rod Blagojevich was in office.
Normally when the state needs to purchase goods or services it takes bids in order to secure the lowest price; however, in “emergency” situations the state is often forced to resort to making these purchases without considering multiple bids. Without competitive bids Illinois’ taxpayers may be spending more than necessary for goods and services bought by the state.
Although emergency no-bid purchases are intended for use in situations where time is of the essence, officials say an increasingly large number of these purchases are attributed to human error, understaffing or failure to plan ahead for purchasing. One example cited was a recent Illinois Department of Corrections $15,000 no-bid emergency purchase of “hot dog seasoning” for use at the Menard Correctional Center meat shop. The existing contract for the seasoning had expired and a new contract had not yet been put in place.
Graduated Tax Means Higher Taxes in Most States
The prospect of Illinois moving to a graduated income tax has been attracting attention lately. I oppose a graduated tax because a look at recent data shows it is nothing more than a thinly disguised attempt to increase taxes on most Illinoisans and a way to keep the temporary tax increase enacted in 2011.
Thirty-four states plus the District of Columbia have graduated income taxes. The national Tax Foundation compiles information on tax rates across the country that can help the public determine how a graduated tax might play out in Illinois.
While proponents claim that only those earning more than $150,000 a year in Illinois would pay higher taxes, that has not been the case in other states. Taxpayers with incomes of $50,000 or more pay a higher rate than Illinois’ current 5% rate in two-thirds of the states that have a graduated tax.
For a couple earning $80,000, almost 60% of states impose a rate of 6% or more, while only nine of the states impose a rate lower than Illinois' current 5% tax rate.
In many states, a graduated income tax simply means slightly lower rates for those at the bottom of the income scale, but higher rates for middle income earners. For example, in Arkansas anyone earning $34,000 or more pays the maximum 7% rate. In Georgia, couples earning more than $10,000 pay the top rate of 6%. In Idaho, couples pay 7.4% on any income over $20,700, while in neighboring Iowa an 8.98% rate is imposed on both individuals and couples earning more than $67,230.
Committee Looking into Boating Safety
Legislative efforts to increase boating safety regulations were debated in a special Senate committee hearing August 29. Discussion revolved around legislation introduced last spring to reduce the number of boating accidents, particularly drinking-related accidents, by imposing stricter regulations and restrictions on boaters.
In response to the tragic death of a 10-year-old Lake County boy who died after being hit by an impaired boater, legislation was introduced to promote boating safety. On July 22, the Governor signed Senate Bill 1479, which requires a person who causes a serious boating injury or fatal accident to submit to a blood alcohol test. If the person is found to be intoxicated over the legal limit of .08 then he/she can be sentenced to penalties similar to those imposed on individuals convicted of a DUI while driving a motor vehicle.
Senate Bill 1479 was the first of several watercraft safety measures to be passed by lawmakers and signed into law. A Senate Special Committee on Watercraft Safety has been formed to hold hearings on other boating safety bills.