Negotiations continuing on Senate budget and reform package

Senate lawmakers adjourned March 2, with negotiations continuing on several critical aspects of a Senate budget and reform package — including education funding and workers’ compensation reform and property tax relief.


On February 28, the Senate took action on nearly half of the 13 pieces of legislation that are part of the Senate budget framework, passing legislation dealing with local government consolidation, “pension parity” for Chicago Public Schools, a gaming expansion, procurement reform, and Fiscal Year 2017 supplemental appropriation legislation.


The Senate has made a lot of progress but much more is needed. Negotiations are likely to continue.  The Senate is in a better position to move forward with the remaining measures still to be debated and voted upon but it is not clear at this point whether a compromise agreement is possible.


While there is an urgency to act on the remaining measures, it is important to reach consensus on outstanding issues.  Any budget plan needs to emphasize cuts and reining in government costs, before asking the taxpayers for more.  A comprehensive package will not only include a balanced budget, but protect taxpayers while creating jobs.


Discussions are ongoing on measures to ensure real property tax relief, and thorough and significant workers’ compensation reform to make Illinois competitive again.  Education also remains a top priority, and it’s critical to make sure the school funding formula, which is still being finalized, is complete before moving forward.


Legislation considered by the Senate during the week includes:


Senate Bill 3 would encourage consolidation of Illinois’ nearly 7,000 units of local government—the most in the nation.  Proponents of the proposal said these often unnecessary layers of local government have contributed to the state’s residents skyrocketing property tax bills.  But actually they are only a small part.  K-12 school costs are the major use of property taxes. Property taxes are often listed as a primary reason for Illinois’ outward migration problem.


Senate Bill 5, if enacted, would require the state to pick up the employer-share pension costs of Chicago public school teachers, just as current law provides for downstate and suburban public school teachers.


Senate Bill 6 contained appropriation language for the remaining months of Fiscal Year 2017, to establish spending authority for core state operations not covered by court order, consent decree or continuing appropriations.


Senate Bill 7 would expand gambling across the state, adding casinos in Chicago, Danville, Rockford, Lake County, South Suburban Cook County, and Williamson County.  Additional provisions would also add incentives for the Illinois horseracing industry and allow for slot machines at racetracks.


Senate Bill 8 would allow for procurement reform estimated to save the state government entities tens of millions of dollars on an annual basis.


Senate Bill 16, which outlines reforms to the four state pension systems and the Chicago teachers’ pension fund, failed to generate enough support to pass this week.  However, it can be voted on again when the complete framework is agreed upon.


Storms cause destruction


North Central and Southern Illinois residents are cleaning up after a series of tornados touched down in LaSalle, Jackson, Perry, Franklin, Hamilton and White counties.  The storms left two Illinoisans dead in LaSalle and White counties.


Senators representing the affected communities returned to their district after the storms to tour the damaged areas and offer assistance and support.  The Illinois Emergency Management Agency and other state and local entities have been coordinating rescue and clean-up efforts.

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