With the promise that he will detail a five-year budget plan for the state, expectations are likely to be high for Governor Pat Quinn’s budget speech now set for March 26.
The Governor said he wanted to delay the message from the originally scheduled February 19 date so he could submit a detailed five-year spending plan for the state. Even a one-year budget was expected to present a challenge, as a major portion of the 67% income tax hike, which went into effect in 2011, will expire midway through the coming budget year.
In January, the Governor’s budget office issued three-year projections predicting the state’s backlog of unpaid bills will increase by $10 billion by 2017 under a Quinn Administration. That forecast also showed the Governor’s office plans to run up annual deficits exceeding $4 billion in 2016 and $4.5 billion the next year. While previous projections predicted spending would be held level or cut, the January plan showed substantial spending hikes – increasing spending by more than $2.3 billion – despite reduced revenues.
Bill introduction deadline
With a February 14 deadline for introducing legislation in the Senate, hundreds of measures were being filed. By the first week of February, nearly 500 new bills had been filed since the first of the year with hundreds more expected before the February 14 deadline.
I am sponsoring Senate 2629, which repeals the 20-year prohibition that has prevented Illinois consumers from being able to buy cars on Sundays. Since 1983, car dealerships in Illinois have been forbidden to be open on Sundays under penalty of a $1,500 fine. I thought I would be the hero of the automobile dealer industry by getting the government off their backs and allowing them to decide which days they want to be open. I was wrong. They like being closed and want to use the government to prevent any competitors who might wish to be open on Sundays from being allowed to open. How disappointing that an industry would use the government in this way to prevent competition.
Car dealers should be free to choose whether they wish to be open or closed on Sundays without government interference. A majority of states allow automobile sales on Sundays. And it’s a weak argument that cars dealers should be closed Sundays to give their employees a day off and keep costs down. Plenty of other employers and stores set their hours – with full consideration of what their competition is doing – without input from the government.
On November 22, 2013, the Chicago Tribune took a look at the proposal to end the ban on Sunday car sales, pointing out that consumers want the change and would benefit saying, “Welcome, at last, to modern commerce. You know why competitive reasons will force car dealers to open on Sundays? Because a lot of people are off work on Sundays and free to go shopping for cars!”
Listed below is a sampling of some of the other topics under consideration:
Workers’ Compensation Reform (Senate Bills 2623, 2624, 2625 and 2626): Incorporates several major workers’ compensation reforms designed to address issues identified in a report from the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and in a 2012 report to legislative leaders from Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Sex Offenders (SB 2912): Imposes tougher penalties on sex offenders who fail to notify authorities when they lose work. A "change in employment" is a reportable event under existing statute, but a "loss of employment" does not trigger the same reporting requirement.
Animal Protection (SB 3138): Creates an Animal Abuse Registry in Illinois, as part of a national effort to identify persons convicted of animal abuse crimes and share that information with shelters, rescues, pet stores and individuals. Information would be available at one location to make it easier to screen potential adopters and customers.
Mental Health Records (SB 3123): Allows a court to order that a spouse, child, or parent of a person receiving treatment for mental health or developmental disabilities be notified, without the consent of the recipient, whenever there is a change in the recipient’s treatment plan.
Estate Tax (SB 2837): Seeks to ease the estate planning burdens on family farms and small businesses by re-coupling Illinois’ Estate Tax, or Death Tax, to federal law. For many years, the taxing threshold in Illinois for things like farmland and business assets was identical to, or coupled with, the federal government guidelines. When Democrat leaders passed a record tax hike in early 2011, they decoupled the state rate from the federal rate, raising tax liability for families that own farms and small businesses in Illinois. This legislation would once again “couple” the state’s rate to the federal rate beginning January 1, 2015.
Digging deeper: fleeing Illinois
On the heels of recent reports showing Illinois losing population through out-migration, Forbes Online Magazine recently took a deeper look at the trends behind the numbers. In a recent article, The States People Are Fleeing In 2014, Forbes dug into Illinois’ status as the Number 2 state for out-migration.
Professor Michael Stoll, chair of the Department of Public Policy at the University of California Los Angeles, told Forbes over time Illinois has lost one-third of its manufacturing jobs and a quarter of its jobs in construction. Stoll noted the state’s unemployment rate may be much greater than the already high official 8.9% rate, explaining the Labor Department ceases to count people as unemployed once they stop pursuing work or accept a part-time job, which he said is the case when examining the state’s long term joblessness.
Illinois-based manufacturers snubbed for IDOT contract
Several Midwestern states are currently in the process of implementing “high-speed” rail service for passenger usage. And, while Illinois boasts two of the world’s largest railway equipment manufacturers, the Illinois Department of Transportation’s recent contract award for 35 locomotives went to German-based Siemens, Inc. Both Electro-Motive Diesel Inc., a subsidiary of Peoria’s Caterpillar, and Mt. Vernon’s National Railway Equipment Company lost out. A third Illinois-based company – GE Transportation in Chicago, which had entered into an agreement with a Pennsylvania firm – was denied the contract, as well.