Update from the Capitol: Education Funding, Budget, Bill Signings and More

Reforms Still Needed
Our two and a half year state budget stalemate finally came to an end this summer, but not in the way I had hoped. Both the House and Senate, by razor-thin margins, overrode Governor Rauner’s  budget veto, paving the way for permanent state income tax increases on Illinois families and job creators.  Upon the override vote, your personal state income tax rate increased from 3.75% to 4.95%. The budget also includes a new 5 cent per gallon state tax on gasoline which goes into the General Revenue Fund rather than into the Road Fund where it would be dedicated to repairing our infrastructure.

As disappointed as I am with the tax increases, what’s truly troubling is that Speaker Madigan adamantly refused to even consider any of the structural reforms we need to truly stabilize our finances. If this sounds familiar that’s because it is the same failed approach that the state took in 2011 – increase taxes without addressing any of the underlying issues hurting our state, and we all remember what happened. Families and businesses fled our state while our debts and unpaid bills continued to grow.

Simply increasing taxes is not a budget solution. I fought to pass a responsible, balanced comprehensive budget and reform package; and I will continue to do my best to advance new policies to make Illinois a place that families and businesses want to call home again.

All Students Win under New Education Funding Formula
In contrast to our strong budget disagreements, this week members of both parties in the House and Senate worked together to pass a new formula for funding our schools that will benefit all schools and students in Illinois. The governor has promised to promptly sign it.
The new “evidence-based” formula contained in SB 1947 prioritizes funding for our most impoverished schools and students while ensuring all 852 school districts in Illinois are treated fairly. Schools here in the 87th legislative district are poised to gain approximately $1.6 million in new funding compared to FY17.

Other important components of the plan include:
• A property tax relief provision, providing many homeowners the ability to reduce their property taxes;
• A tax credit scholarship program to help low and middle income students whose best educational option is private school;
• More equitable charter school funding so every child will be treated fairly according to their parents’ choice; and
• Mandate relief to provide districts more budgeting flexibility.

This plan is realistic, fair and represents the best and most reasonable outcome for all Illinois students.

Locally-Inspired Bills Signed into Law
In addition to special session action, this has also been a very active summer for bill signings. Three locally-inspired bills I introduced in the House have recently been signed into law, including House Bill 3521 which will eliminate the office of Township Collector in Sangamon County. 

The Township Collector’s office has become outdated and is duplicative of the office of County Treasurer.  The Citizens Efficiency Commission identified elimination of this position as a positive step towards more efficient, streamlined government in Sangamon County.  Sangamon County Township Tax Collectors elected in the 2017 consolidated election will serve out their full four-year terms.  The position will be eliminated county-wide on January 1, 2022.

House Bill 1784 will help motorists and bicyclists share the roadway more safely by providing motorists more options for safely passing a bicycle, allowing bicyclists the use of the roadway shoulder, and enhancing bicycle lighting options.

House Bill 3032 enhances the Military Economic Development Committee, working to support Illinois’ military bases and prevent further closures. Among other provisions, it directs the Adjutant General of the Department of Military Affairs to appoint a military veteran as a member of the Military Economic Development Committee to serve as a vice-chair.

According to the Committee’s findings, the military and the defense industry directly and indirectly contribute nearly 150,000 jobs and $13.3 billion in economic activity across Illinois, as of 2013. It represents nearly 2 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.

Around the District
Last week we officially opened an important transportation link in the capital city: the Stanford Avenue extension to Taylor Avenue. This stretch now connects the east and west sides of Springfield, becoming only the second thoroughfare to fully make this connection. Two more phases will improve this road from 6th Street East to this just-opened segment. Stanford was also designed with local bike paths/routes in mind and now serves as a vital link of the Interurban, Wabash, and Lost Bridge trails.

A tremendous announcement this month for the community of Lincoln on the 101st birthday of the National Park Service. It was announced that the NPS Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program has awarded a $17,000 grant to the Tropics Neon Sign Project Committee for the restoration and re-installation of the iconic Tropics sign near the corner of Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway and Route 10 in Lincoln.

I was also pleased to welcome the folks from Hand of Fate Brewing Company in Petersburg to the House chamber this week. Hand of Fate was the recent winner of the Illinois Bicentennial Craft Beer competition organized by Illinois 200.  HoF’s What the Fuzz peach ginger cream ale will be official craft beer of the Illinois Bicentennial. Awesome to have an 87th District brewery receive such a great recognition. Keep on the lookout for this beer around the State in 2018.