Senate Week in Review: January 29 – February 2, 2018

Governor Bruce Rauner delivered his fourth State of the State Address January 31, highlighting several accomplishments over the past few years and laying out a roadmap of what he’d like to see Illinois achieve in 2018.

Also during the week, I introduced ethics legislation which will ban lawmakers from involvement in the property tax appeals process.

In other action, Democrat majorities overrode the Governor’s amendatory veto of technical changes to education funding legislation, sending millions of additional dollars to Chicago Public Schools, at the expense of most of the rest of the state.

Rauner: ‘We can and must grow our way into a more prosperous future’

Creating more jobs, spending within the state’s means, ending the practice of borrowing to cover the state’s deficits, addressing the state’s pension crisis, and lowering the tax burden on families and businesses were some major themes of Governor Rauner’s annual State of the State Address.

Calling for both parties to work together in 2018, the Governor highlighted issues where Republicans and Democrats both played a role in what Rauner says helped the people of Illinois over the past year.  This includes the bipartisan education funding reform law, lowering fees for start-up businesses, enacting criminal justice reform, helping keep and attract new businesses, and fighting the opioid epidemic, among others.  The Governor says that Illinois is in a “state of readiness” to capitalize on the state’s potential.

In December, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated Illinois lost 33,703 people between July 1, 2016, and July 1, 2017, causing Illinois to drop from the fifth most populated state, to sixth.  If Illinois doesn’t pass job-growth reforms and focus on lowering the tax burden on families and businesses, people will continue to move out of Illinois, taking their purchasing power and income with them, resulting in more local economies lagging and less tax revenue for the state.

“It is within our power to produce an Illinois that lives up to its resources,” Governor Rauner said.  “The seeds are planted.  The work has begun.  Now it is time to finish the job.”

The Governor will deliver his annual Budget Address February 14.

Ban lawmakers from involvement in property tax appeals

I have introduced ethics legislation that would make it illegal for elected representatives or senators to be involved with litigating property tax appeals.

Senate Bill 2495 states that no legislator may accept or participate in any way in any representation case before the State of Illinois or any unit of local government in the State on any matter filed on or after February 1, 2018, that involves a challenge to any tax or proposed assessment of any tax or fee.

Illinois has a corrupt situation where some of our representatives like Mike Madigan have been making a great deal of money from the property tax appeals system.  The game is they assess property values high, then they come in and appeal it.  It’s reduced for that year and then they take a piece of that reduction as their profit for the action.  Then a year or two later, that levy goes back up again and they have to appeal it again, and lawyers collect again.  And this goes on and on and on, particularly with commercial real estate.

Governor Rauner referred to my legislation in his State of the State address January 31.

“No one in Illinois is happy with our property tax assessment system.  Ordinary people — the ones without clout or connections or money to pay high-powered lawyers — are victims of a system rigged against them.  For too long, big businesses and the well-to-do have gotten huge tax breaks while little guys and little businesses take it in the pocketbook,” Governor Rauner said.  “Two weeks ago, we issued an executive order that prevents legislators from practicing before the state property tax appeal board.  And today Sen. Oberweis and Rep. Wehrli have introduced legislation that asks you to apply this same reform to every legislator who might practice before an assessment appeal board anywhere in the state.”

We have to bring property taxes under control.  They are forcing people to leave our state.  Some people in the residential sector are being driven out of their homes because they can’t afford the property taxes any more.  That has to change if we want to save the State of Illinois.

More money sent to CPS, at the expense of other schools

More than $45 million in additional funding is now projected to head to Chicago Public Schools at the expense of the vast majority of school districts throughout the state.  This, after Democrat majorities in the House and Senate overrode the Governor’s amendatory veto of Senate Bill 444 on January 31, making it law.

Senate Bill 444 makes technical changes to the evidence-based school funding law (Senate Bill 1947) that dealt with how Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) is calculated in the formula.  To see a simulation breakdown of how Senate Bill 444 will impact school districts across the state, click here.

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