Bennett bills pass the House; Graduated tax hike takes a step forward

Two Bennett-sponsored bills pass the House

This week two bills which I am sponsoring passed the House and moved over to the Senate. Both bills passed by wide margins and I am very hopeful that they will pass the Senate.

House Bill 344 allows residents of state-operated assisted living facilities to use electronic monitoring, either audio or video surveillance in his or her own room. Representative Charlie Meier of Okawville was a big help to me with this bill during my recent absence.

The second bill to pass was House Bill 2583, which allows conservancy districts to change their name and clarifies their ability to add either parts of counties or entire counties into the district.  This idea came from our regional flood prevention alliance. I appreciate Representative Lindsay Parkhurst of Kankakee for all of her help with this bill.

Both bills now go to the Senate for further discussion.

Graduated income tax amendment clears Senate committee

The proposed Constitutional amendment which would create a graduated income tax in Illinois; essentially a blank check for Springfield politicians to raise taxes; cleared its first hurdle on Wednesday when a Senate committee moved it forward. This $3.4 billion tax increase has no protections for middle class families and small businesses, no provision to prevent future tax rates from being raised and it makes it easier for the same politicians who have raised your taxes twice in this decade to do so again. That puts Illinois families and businesses at risk. My House Republican colleagues and I are unanimously opposed to this amendment, but the outcome is far from certain at this point.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $7,902,123,675 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $8.0 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be approximately $130 billion.

Legislation to protect DCFS and Adult Protective Services workers passes unanimously

A bill has passed the house which would extend protections to Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Adult Protective Services workers in honor of a DCFS worker who was murdered on the job. House Bill 1482 takes the same protections from assault which are applied to teachers, police/fire, and other emergency responders and applies them to DCFS and Adult Protective Service employees. A loophole excluded DCFS and Department on Aging personnel from the protections of the existing law. We are now a step closer to fixing that terrible oversight.

Since 2013, there have been more than 20 attacks against state workers who protect the most vulnerable citizens of Illinois. The most serious was an attack two years ago on DCFS caseworker Pam Knight who was attacked and killed while conducting a welfare check on a two-year-old child. The legislation was brought about through the dedication of her husband and her local representative Tony McCombie. I was proud to be among the long, bipartisan list of co-sponsors of this important legislation.

Visiting the Onarga Chamber

It was nice to get out and visit the Onarga Chamber of Commerce annual meeting on Friday night at the Shagbark Country Club. I was pleased to present a certificate from the Illinois General Assembly to Doug Brenner, who was named the Chamber’s 2018 Citizen of the Year. I appreciate Doug for his hard work and all those in the local chamber who do so much to promote businesses in our communities.

Five-year infrastructure plan submitted

There has been a lot of talk around Springfield about the need for a capital bill to improve the condition of Illinois’ roads, transit, state-owned buildings and other infrastructure. Last week, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) released its FY 2020 Capital Plan Analysis, which analyzes the proposal from the Governor’s office for capital improvements and then advises the General Assembly on whether the state’s financial resources will be enough to meet the needs of the plan.

The report found that the state is going to have to find a way to raise additional funds to meet capital spending needs. The report notes that while transportation-related expenses have gone up, the state’s gas tax has remained at 19 cents per gallon since 1991. Illinois has instead found revenue through sources like video gaming to supplement the gas tax-funded Road Fund. This is likely to be one of the issues we will see in the closing weeks of session this spring.

Did You Know?

Monday is tax day. In the 50 years that Illinois has had an individual income tax, its rate has moved up and down, but mostly up. Illinois’ income tax was first enacted at 2.5%. It was temporarily increased to 3% in 1983 and again in 1989, but in 1993 the 3% rate was made permanent. It was temporarily raised to 5% in 2011, falling to 3.75% in 2015 as scheduled. The income tax was set at its current level of 4.95% in 2017.