A bipartisan group of lawmakers working to reform Illinois’ education
funding formula met during the week to discuss the state’s property tax system
and its implications for school funding.
It could also once again become more costly for
the state to borrow money as S&P Global Ratings dropped the state’s already
low credit rating one more notch. Also
during the week, Senate lawmakers heard testimony from advocates who want
Illinois to join a growing list of states that are removing the statute of
limitations on child sex abuse crimes. And
a new survey during the week shows Illinois residents are demanding term limits
for legislators and want politicians removed from the process of drawing
legislative district maps every 10 years.
Funding Reform Commission discusses property tax system
Meeting for the fifth time, the bipartisan
Illinois School Funding Reform Commission discussed the state’s property tax
system and its implications for school funding during its meeting October 5.
Tom Johnson, the retired former President of the
Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois, discussed the recent historical trend of
Equalized Assessed Value (EAV) throughout the state. He illustrated for lawmakers that since 2009,
EAV in Illinois has dropped 23 percent. Because
the state’s school funding formula relies heavily on property taxes, which are
calculated using EAV, this decline has dramatically impacted school districts.
Johnson also showed how the breakdown of
commercial property and residential property within a school district’s
boundaries can impact tax revenue for that school district. In addition, he explained to lawmakers for
both PTELL (Property Tax Extension Limitation Law) and non-PTELL districts, how
tax rates are calculated and talked about the Cook County property
classification system. Finally, Johnson
described Tax Increment Finance (TIF) districts and how they apply to available
The commission will meet again October 19 and
continue the discussion on how property taxes impact the state’s school-aid
formula. At prior meetings, the Commission
discussed the hold harmless provision (a guarantee of an amount at least equal
to the prior year), funding distribution models, the relationship between
school funding and workforce readiness, the “evidence-based” approach to
funding education, and best practices in school funding, among other
Chaired by Secretary of Education Beth Purvis,
the Commission is tasked with making recommendations to the General Assembly to
revise the current school funding formula by February 1, 2017.
credit rating takes a hit
Citing Illinois’ massively underfunded pension
liability as a major financial pressure, S&P Global Ratings dropped the
state’s credit rating one notch to BBB on September 30. Illinois is facing an unfunded pension
liability of more than $111 billion, the largest in the country. The credit agency also cited “continued weak
financial management” as a reason for its decision, as well as the state’s
unpaid bill backlog totaling more than $8 billion.
The lower investment grade of BBB, just two
levels above junk status, can make it more costly for the state to borrow money
since interest rate costs are likely to be higher.
Republicans say this is another reason Illinois
must pass a constitutional pension reform law and pass a balanced budget with
structural reforms that will grow Illinois’ economy, create jobs, and move the
state forward fiscally. S&P noted
another downgrade is possible if Illinois isn’t willing to “adopt a long-term
structural budget solution.”
statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases
The Senate Criminal Law Committee met October 4 to
hear testimony and discuss legislative proposals about removing the statute of
limitations on child sex abuse crimes. Illinois’
current law says sexual abuse against a child must be reported and prosecuted
within 20 years of the victim turning 18 years old.
There are currently four proposals pending in the
General Assembly that would remove the statute of limitations from felony child
sexual abuse crimes. More than 30 states
have no statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases.
Senators heard powerful testimony from victims
who suffered sexual abuse as a minor and who now as adults are advocating for a
change in Illinois law, so abusers don’t go unpunished due to the passage of
support term limits, redistricting efforts
A survey released October 5 by the Paul Simon
Institute found Illinoisans overwhelmingly support term limits and independent
redistricting efforts. The results include:
than 80 percent favor a constitutional amendment limiting the number of terms a
state representative or state senator can serve, while 17 percent are opposed.
percent of likely voters support the idea of an amendment establishing an
independent commission to draw legislative district lines, while 18 percent are
opposed. The Paul Simon Institute has
been polling this question since 2010 and the support for redistricting reform
this year is at a record high.
The poll comes on the heels of an Illinois
Supreme Court ruling in August that struck down a ballot referendum that would
take the legislative district map drawing powers out of the hands of lawmakers. Efforts to get a proposed amendment on the
ballot about term limits have also failed in the past because of lawsuits filed
by Mr. Madigan and upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court.
This recent survey is further proof these are
reforms Illinoisans are demanding but Speaker Madigan is fighting. We continue to push for legislation that
would allow voters the opportunity to amend the Illinois Constitution to establish
term limits and change the way legislative maps are drawn.